Recommendation Issued to Add Birth Control to List of Free Preventive Services

The National Journal reports today that the Institute of Medicine has recommended that health insurers should pay for a range of services for women at no cost, including birth control, counseling on sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS screening.  

The IOM said free coverage of contraceptives would reduce unintended pregnancies. NPR reported today that half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended.

According to the NY Times, the panel said “contraception if highly cost-effective,” saving far more than it costs.

A list of eight services would be added to a listing of preventive services that individuals should get free, with no co-payment required. The eight services are:

  • screening for gestational diabetes
  • HPV testing as part of cervical cancer screening for women over 30
  • counseling on sexually transmitted infections
  • counseling and screening for HIV
  • contraceptive methods and counseling to prevent unintended pregnancies
  • lactation counseling and equipment to promote breast-feeding
  • screening and counseling to detect and prevent interpersonal and domestic violence
  • yearly well-woman preventive care visits to obtain recommended preventive services

The Department of Health and Human Services contracted with the independent Institute of Medicine to study the evidence and science before they issue final regulations. The regulations are required by the Affordable Care Act as part of setting a minimum package of health benefits that must be covered by all insurers, including certain preventive services at no cost to the insured individual.

According to the National Journal, panel chair Linda Rosenstock, dean of the School of Public Health at UCLA, said, “The eight services we identified are necessary to support women's optimal health and well-being. Each recommendation stands on a foundation of evidence supporting its effectiveness.”

Opponents to the mandatory free coverage by insurers oppose the recommendation because it would force individuals who oppose contraceptives to pay into a premium system that uses their money to pay for others’ contraceptives.