Victory! The U.S. Health & Human Services (HHS) has announced new guidelines this week that health insurance plans beginning on or after August 1, 2012 will cover various women's preventative services, including birth control, voluntary sterilization, and emergency contraception. Sure, we had sort of seen this coming after last month's scientific review by the Institute of Medicine, which noted that health insurance coverage of various preventative measures would bolster women's health in the U.S. But it wasn't definite that the HHS would approve those recommendations. And now, they have! Whoohoo!
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the decision is a part of the Affordable Care Act's attempt to curb problems before they even begin. In other words, these guidelines FINALLY recognize that controlling our fertility promotes our health and well-being.
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The regulation will see to it that various other recommended preventative health services are made more affordable to women. In other words, they'll be available without a co-payment. The services include:
- well-woman visits
- screening for gestational diabetes
- human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing for women 30 years and older
- sexually-transmitted infection counseling
- human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening and counseling
- FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling
- breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling
- domestic violence screening and counseling
By taking away the cost of these important services, there's no doubt American women will be healthier. Whether or not naysayers want to admit it, the co-payments or out-of-pocket costs of these services have been a barrier for MANY women who may have wanted to be tested for STDs or who needed breastfeeding counseling, but couldn't afford it for all different reasons.
I also love that this regulation acknowledges the importance of preventative care. All too often, we just wait until we're sick to see a doctor. On the most everyday level, think about something like a yeast infection or UTI. Do most of us take probiotics or drink cranberry juice on a regular basis to avoid these annoying infections? Nope, we just wait until we have one, and then we have to go spend a chunk of dough — usually on a doctor's visit and one or two prescriptions, maybe on an over-the-counter treatment, which can run you $20+. But if our preventative care was more affordable, we could save that money in the long-run.
This common sense is what's really going to make a difference in so many American women's well-being. Prioritizing preventative care for women is a no-brainer, and I gotta say — one of the smartest things the U.S. government has done in a while.
What do you think about this regulation? What does it mean for you?
Written by Maressa Brown for The Stir.