The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released a statement that included new guidelines regarding the required full coverage of a number of women’s preventative services – such as voluntary sterilization and birth control – by health insurance companies from August 1, 2012 onward.
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from the HHS explained that the department’s decision was made as a part of the strategy from the Affordable Care Act to halt problems before they occur. In a press release, she said that the new coverage guidelines “are based on science and existing literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need.”
The science to which Sebelius referred included a scientific review of women’s health needs that the Institute of Medicine released in July. It also made prevention recommendations for assisting women. The HHS has approved the recommendations that the institute had issued.
Aside from the use of contraceptives, coverage also extends to screenings for female conditions such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) and gestational diabetes, in addition to sexually transmitted disease (STD) counseling, and support for breastfeeding. The HHS official website contains the complete list of products and services that are included in the coverage decision.
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Though many were thrilled by this decision, there were some who voiced their concerns over the availability of contraception at no additional cost, such as the Family Research Council, which stated that the decision of the HHS “undermines the conscience rights” of many people across the country.
The Obama Administration responded by amending the prevention regulation by giving religious institutions the choice as to whether or not health insurance they offer their employees will cover services relating to contraception.