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Free Birth Control Possible With Health Care Overhaul

Health insurance companies may soon be required to provide women with free birth control, among other services, as part of the health care law passed last year.

The law requires that health insurance plans provide a given set of preventive health services to patients without co-payments or deductibles, and Tuesday an independent panel of health specialists released its recommendation of what those services should include for women.

Commissioned by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, the Institute of Medicine recommended that insurers cover “the full range” of FDA-approved contraceptives including sterilization and patient counseling, as well as coverage for breast pump rental, domestic violence counseling, and annual wellness exams and HIV tests. –BF

The Wall Street Journal:

Contraception coverage is likely to be the most controversial of the eight recommendations in the report. The Family Research Council, a conservative public-policy outfit, said it opposed a mandate to make birth-control coverage free, because people who don’t support contraception shouldn’t have to subsidize its use by others.

In a statement, Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards praised the report, saying birth control without out-of-pocket expenses “would be a tremendous stride forward for women’s health in this country.”

The committee also recommended that insurers cover screening for gestational diabetes in pregnant women, testing for human papillomavirus in women age 30 and up, and annual counseling about sexually transmitted diseases and screening for HIV for all sexually active women. Additional recommendations by the panel include comprehensive breastfeeding support; screening for domestic violence and counseling about the issue for women and teenage girls; and at least one preventive health exam for women each year. The committee didn’t address the issue of how much its recommendations would cost.

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