New federal requirement mandates insurance coverage for contraception

Prescription contraceptives for women sit on the counter of a drug store on August 1, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Under new standards issued by the Obama administration, health insurers are required to cover all government-approved contraceptives for women, without co-payments or other charges.
Prescription contraceptives for women sit on the counter of a drug store on August 1, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Under new standards issued by the Obama administration, health insurers are required to cover all government-approved contraceptives for women, without co-payments or other charges. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Obama administration mandated health insurance plans to offer birth control without requiring co-pays from patients on Monday. The requirement will become part of the federal Affordable Care Act.

A federal Institute of Medicine committee recommended preventative treatments already available to women that healthcare reform should offer without cost – meaning without co-payments or deductibles.

The committee had to present evidence to indicate that if insurance companies offered these services without co-pays, the results would significantly improve women’s health.

"The committee came up with eight new services, including a well woman’s visit, a screening for gestational diabetes and one that has gotten a lot of attention is first dollar coverage for all FDA approved contraceptive methods and devices," says the its chairwoman Linda Rosenstock, who's also UCLA's dean of public health.

She says the Obama administration approved all eight of the services she and her colleagues recommended.

"There’s no question that someone is going to have to pay to get these added services," Rosenstock says. "What that means usually in an insurance system is that those costs would be spread over the entire group of people who are insured."

She adds that paying for prevention now will help avert costly medical problems that could raise insurance rates down the line.

The changes will require medical insurers to offer the eight preventative treatments and services for women – without cost - by January 1st, 2013.

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