The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has upheld the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation to include birth control in a list of preventative services to be covered without co-payments through the Affordable Care Act.

According to a press release from the federal agency, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says, “these historic guidelines are based on science and existing literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need”:

Last summer, HHS released new insurance market rules under the Affordable Care Act requiring all new private health plans to cover several evidence-based preventive services like mammograms, colonoscopies, blood pressure checks, and childhood immunizations without charging a copayment, deductible or coinsurance. The Affordable Care Act also made recommended preventive services free for people on Medicare.

Today’s announcement builds on that progress by making sure women have access to a full range of recommended preventive services without cost sharing, including:

  • well-woman visits;
  • screening for gestational diabetes;
  • human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing for women 30 years and older;
  • sexually-transmitted infection counseling;
  • human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening and counseling;
  • FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling;
  • breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling; and
  • domestic violence screening and counseling.

Today’s announcement is another part of the Obama Administration’s broader effort to address the health and well-being of our communities through initiatives such as the President’s Childhood Obesity Task Force, the First Lady’s Let’s Move! campaign, the National Quality Strategy, and the National Prevention Strategy.

MI LOLA, a Miami-based group that has been advocating for this outcome, says “this is a tremendous advance for women’s health.” Jersey Garcia, a member of the group, says the group is “proud to know that HHS support[s] access to comprehensive preventive care for women and that these benefits will be available to all women through their health insurance.”

“It’s great to know that now when a woman buys health insurance, contraception, as well as other preventive services, will have to be part of the package,” Garcia says.

Garcia previously told The Florida Independent that despite having health insurance, she was unable to afford birth control after giving birth to her second child. Rising costs and steep co-payments have kept women like Garcia from affording contraception in large numbers.

“Removing economic obstacles, like co-pays, for women to access a full range of preventive services is a wise and sound health policy,” she says. “Women and their families have much to gain when all these provisions are implemented into health care reform. Mammograms, Pap smears, birth control, HIV testing and counseling, are all critical services for women to lead healthy lives.”

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