ACOG Applauds HHS for Requiring Insurance Coverage of Key Womens Preventive Health Services

August 1, 2011

Washington, DC -- The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) applauds the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for the prompt acceptance of the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) recent recommendations that require new health insurance plans to cover vital women's preventive services, at no cost to the patient.

"The women of this country deserve no less than access to all comprehensive and clinically effective preventive care, and we commend HHS for recognizing this. In a world with very little positive news, today has been a good day for women's health," said ACOG Executive Vice President Hal C. Lawrence III, MD. The IOM recommendations had been developed under the directive of the Mikulski Women's Preventive Health Care Amendment to the Affordable Care Act.

The recommendations, which closely mirror ACOG's best practice guidelines, will ensure that women covered under new plans will no longer face a barrier to receiving the following services because of a co-payment, co-insurance, or deductible:

  • The full range of FDA-approved contraceptive methods, to help women control the timing, number, and spacing of births. Planned pregnancies—which for most women require contraception—benefit women by allowing them to optimize their own health before pregnancy and childbirth. An unintended pregnancy may have significant implications for a woman's health, sometimes worsening a preexisting health condition such as diabetes, hypertension, or coronary artery disease. Planned pregnancies improve the health of children as well, as adequate birth spacing lowers the risk of low birth weight, preterm birth, and small-for-gestational age;
  • At least one well-woman preventive visit, including preconception care, annually for adult women to obtain recommended preventive services, allowing for additional visits, depending on the women's health status, needs, and other risk factors;
  • Screening and counseling for intimate partner violence, which affects an estimated five million women a year;
  • Testing for HPV as part of cervical cancer screening;
  • Screening for gestational diabetes in pregnant women;
  • Annual counseling for sexually transmitted infections and counseling and screening for HIV in sexually active women; and
  • Comprehensive lactation support and counseling and costs of renting breastfeeding equipment.

Contraception is an essential component of women's health care. Should a woman choose to use birth control, she should have access to all methods at no cost, as these guidelines ensure. However, any exemption to religiously-affiliated health plans from this contraceptive requirement erodes this right. ACOG strongly recommends that no exemption be allowed and looks forward to resolving these concerns with HHS.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College), a 501(c)(3) organization, is the nation's leading group of physicians providing health care for women. As a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization of approximately 55,000 members, The College strongly advocates for quality health care for women, maintains the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education of its members, promotes patient education, and increases awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women's health care. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a 501(c)(6) organization, is its companion organization.

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