In a move sure to feed the controversy over the federal health care reform bill, yesterday the Obama administration announced new standards requiring private health care insurers to cover all government-approved contraceptives and a comprehensive list of preventive measures for women without co-payments or other fees. Supporters say this will remove long-time barriers to birth control and increase the use of preventive services that will now be available without cost sharing requirements, including mammograms, immunizations, HIV screening and counseling, gestational diabetes screening, well-woman visits, breastfeeding support and counseling, and domestic violence screening. Opponents say the new standards, which follow recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences, should not include coverage for contraception, and indeed there is a clause in the regulations that allows certain religious employers to be exempt. In a recent interview with CBS, Stephanie Cutter, a deputy senior advisor to President Obama, said "This isn't about abstinence. This is not about preventing unwanted pregnancies. This is about women's health.” The rules, which take effect for most insurance policies on August 1, 2012, set the stage for increased participation in comprehensive preventive health care, which if successful, could translate to better health outcomes and significant financial savings. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, chronic disease, which is often preventable, is accountable for 75% of the nation’s health spending. Will these new rules convince you to check in with your doctor and save the country a dollar or two in the future?
Stephanie Cutter, assistant to the President and Deputy Senior Advisor
Judy Waxman, VP of health and reproductive rights at the National Women’s Law Center