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Women's Health

Health Reform: No-Cost Contraception Starts Today

Health Reform Law to Extend 8 Free Preventive Health Services –- From Birth Control to Breastfeeding Support -– to 47 Million Women
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Contraception Controversy

The law has always allowed churches and other religious organizations the choice of either buying or sponsoring group health insurance that does not pay for contraception if doing so is counter to their beliefs.

But religious-affiliated groups such as universities and hospitals were not included in this exemption.

This caused an uproar among many religious groups, most notably the Catholic church. The Obama administration says it has a compromise. The insurance companies providing health plans to employers with religious affiliations will be required to cover the cost of contraceptives, not the employer. The Obama administration extended the time until August 2013 for religious institutions to comply with the law.

Removing a Barrier to Prevention

Eliminating costs associated with women's preventive health services has been identified as an important factor in removing a major barrier to needed care.

A 2009 report by the Commonwealth Fund found that more than half of women -- up by more than 25% from 2007 -- delayed or avoided preventive care because of cost. In addition, the government cites a study that found women's use of mammograms went up by as much as 9% when costs for the screening were removed.

Although the provision takes effect today, most women won't gain access to free preventive services until the start of their plan year. For most Americans, that's likely to be in January 2013, when most health insurance policies renew.

Grandfathered health plans -- those already in place when the Affordable Care Act became law in March 2010 and that haven't made significant changes to their benefits -- are exempt from the new requirement.

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