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Women's Health

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

Institute of Medicine Calls for Less Expensive Contraceptives for Insured Women
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

July 20, 2011 -- The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has released a report recommending that all FDA-approved forms of birth control be offered to insured women without the burden of additional co-payments.

The recommendation is one of eight made by an IOM panel in its report on clinical preventive services for women.

The report was commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to identify gaps in women's preventive care currently covered under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The panel members expect a quick response to the report.

"HHS will identify which if any of these recommendations they plan to follow by Aug. 1," panel chair Linda Rosenstock, MD, MPH, dean of UCLA's School of Public Health, told reporters in a news briefing.

According to the report, 49% of all pregnancies in 2001 were unintended; 42% of those unintended pregnancies ended in abortion. Unintended pregnancies, the report states, have been linked to lower levels of prenatal care, an increased risk of depression for mothers, and an increased risk for premature births and babies with low birth weights.

Federal health policies and most private insurers already cover contraception and family planning, according to the report, but if the panel's recommendation is accepted, that coverage will be available without co-payments. "The elimination of cost sharing for contraception," the report states, "therefore could greatly increase its use, including use of the more effective and longer-acting methods, especially among poor and low-income women most at risk for unintended pregnancy."

RU-486, otherwise known as the abortion pill, is not covered by the panel's recommendation, panel member Alina Salganicoff, PhD, vice president and director of Women's Health Policy at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, told reporters.

Planned Parenthood supports the IOM position on contraception. "The IOM recommendation confirms that prescription birth control, along with other key health care services, such as annual exams and HIV screening and counseling, are critical preventive services that improve the health of communities across the country," Vanessa Cullins, MD, vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, says in a news release. "These services need to be accessible for women."

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