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Women's Health

Panel: Drop Co-Pay for Women's Birth Control

Institute of Medicine Calls for Less Expensive Contraceptives for Insured Women
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Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, opposes the recommendations. "Without sufficient legal protection for rights of conscience," DiNardo says in a news release, "such a mandate would force all men, women and children to carry health coverage that violates the deeply-held moral and religious convictions of many."

In the briefing for reporters, IOM panel members stressed that the decision to use the recommended preventive services will be up to the patient and her doctor.

Recommended Changes in Health Coverage

In addition to contraceptive devices and counseling, the panel recommends that the following also be covered without co-pay:

  • Screenings for gestational diabetes, or diabetes that begins during pregnancy, between weeks 24 and 28 or at the first prenatal visit for pregnant women at high risk of developing diabetes.
  • DNA testing for the human papillomavirus, which can cause cervical cancer, in addition to conventional  testing, every three years for all women beginning at age 30.
  • Yearly counseling on sexually transmitted infections for all sexually active women.
  • Yearly HIV counseling and screening for all sexually active women.
  • Support for breastfeeding, including counseling and rental costs of breastfeeding equipment. "This is for all women in a situation where they are separated from their child, such as those who have to return to work after six weeks," Rosenstock says.
  • Domestic abuse screening and counseling.
  • At least one annual well-woman checkup to obtain the recommended tests, screenings, and other preventive services, including preconception and prenatal care.

The IOM report also provides guidance on ways to keep the preventive services covered by the 2010 law up to date and in line with emerging scientific knowledge and evidence-based standards.

One of the sixteen panelists, University of Illinois public health professor Anthony Lo Sasso, PhD, dissented.  He says the panel wasn't given enough time to make an informed decision and that the cost of their recommendations be taken into account.

But the committee was not asked to take cost into consideration, and the panel members who spoke to reporters would not speculate on the price that would be required should their recommendations be accepted. However, Rosenstock says, "If you are successful at prevention, then it is a very cost-effective tool."

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