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    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
    By
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    Aug. 1, 2012 -- Today ushers in a new provision of the health reform law that makes additional preventive health services -- from contraception to HPV testing -- available for free to an estimated 47 million women.

    Women with health plans that start on or after Aug. 1, 2012, must now be allowed access to eight new preventive health services with no co-pays or deductibles. The eight new services available starting today are:

    1. Well-woman visits
    2. Gestational diabetes screening
    3. Domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling
    4. FDA-approved contraception, including contraceptive education and counseling
    5. Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling
    6. HPV DNA testing for women aged 30 or older
    7. Counseling for sexually active women about sexually transmitted infections
    8. HIV screening and counseling for sexually active women

    These services build upon a roster of existing preventive care that the health reform law, officially called the Affordable Care Act (ACA), already makes available, free of cost, to people with private insurance and Medicare, including annual wellness visits, cholesterol, and other cardiovascular screenings, and cancer screenings including mammography, colonoscopy, and screening for cervical cancer.

    The eight services were recommended to the Department of Health and Human Services by the independent Institute of Medicine after an extensive scientific review.

    Support for the Services

    The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) hailed the ACA's inclusion of additional women's preventive health services as an important step toward making necessary health care available to more women.

    "Today, our nation affirms the importance of a woman's ability to access needed preventive care," ACOG President James T. Breeden, MD, says in a news release. "An annual well-woman visit is a fundamental part of medical care and promotes prevention practices, recognizes risk factors for disease, identifies medical problems, and establishes the often life-long patient-physician relationship. This annual visit provides an excellent opportunity for ob-gyns to counsel patients about maintaining a healthy lifestyle and minimizing health risks."

    Breeden adds that contraception, which is already covered by most employer-sponsored plans, plays an important role in optimizing women's health before pregnancy and childbirth, ultimately leading to healthier pregnancies and babies.

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