Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Preventive Services for Women Help Families: August 1 Marks Important Step Forward for ACA

Today marks the implementation of a much-anticipated package of preventive care services for women, as a part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Women make 80 percent of the health care decisions for their families and are more likely to provide care if a family member falls ill. And women are more likely to delay or avoid needed care for themselves because of cost, with nearly half reporting problems accessing care because of cost in the past year. Therefore, women need help affording the care to remain healthy not only for themselves, but also for their families. The ACA makes it a little easier for women to stay healthy – by helping remove cost-barriers to preventive care.

The ACA recognizes that preventive care is life-saving and cost-effective. To ensure that people get the care they need when they need it, the law ensured that preventive care is made available in all health plans without cost-sharing, like co-payments or deductibles. See the list of covered services here.

When drafting the law, Congress also realized that due to unique health care needs, particularly around reproductive care, women needed a more comprehensive package of preventive care services than the rest of the population. For that reason, they empowered the Secretary of Health and Human Services to define the package, and she took guidance directly from the Institute of Medicine, an independent panel of experts. Those recommended services go into effect for all new health plans, as well as those renewing coverage, as of today, including:

Comprehensive contraception care. The full range of FDA approved contraceptive methods, including birth control pills, IUDs, as well as sterilization procedures, patient education, and counseling.

Screening and counseling for intimate partner violence. Screening and counseling about current and past violence and abuse so that providers can address health concerns about safety and other health problems associated with interpersonal and domestic violence.

Screening for gestational diabetes. Screening pregnant women for gestational diabetes, a form of the disease which develops during pregnancy and occurs more often among women of color.

Breastfeeding counseling and equipment. Making trained breastfeeding counselors available to all women during pregnancy and after they give birth and making breastfeeding equipment available to those who want it.

Screening for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). Counseling on STIs annually; screening for HIV infection annually; and adding a test for high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) to conventional cervical cancer screenings starting at age 30 and continuing every three years.

Well-women preventive care visits. Enabling at least one well-woman preventive care visit for adult women each year so that women can receive the recommended preventive services.

For more on this important milestone, and the key benefits for women, check out this series of blogs by our friends at the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health.

Sara Eskrich

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