Health care reform law: women gain access to free screenings, birth control

birth control

A series of new benefits targeting women under the health care reform law kicked in Wednesday, including one requiring health insurance plans to cover birth control.

As of August 1st, a number of preventative care services must be covered by health insurance companies without charging a deductible. These include “well woman” doctor‘s visits, diabetes screening for pregnant women, domestic violence counseling, breastfeeding support, DNA testing for the HPV virus for women 30 years of age or older, counseling on sexually transmitted diseases, HIV screening and birth control, along with contraceptives education and counseling.

Republicans in Congress denounced the new rules mandating that insurance companies provide birth control as a benefit free of charge to women, with on House lawmaker comparing the provisions of the Affordable Care Act related to birth control to the 9/11 attacks on the United States and Pearl Harbor, according to The Hill:

“I know in your mind you can think of the times America was attacked,” said Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), a freshman. “One is December 7 — that is Pearl Harbor Day. Another was September 11 — that was the day of the terrorist attack.

“I want you to remember August 1, 2012 — the attack on our religious freedom. That is a date that will live in infamy, along with those other dates.”

Republicans object to the fact that religious employers are not exempt from the requirement that the health plans they offer their employees cover birth control.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius praised the enactment of the new provisions in a media release, stating:

According to a new HHS report also released today, approximately 47 million women are in health plans that must cover these new preventive services at no charge.  Women, not insurance companies, can now make health decisions that will keep them healthy, catch potentially serious conditions at an earlier state, and protect them and their families from crushing medical bills.

President Obama is moving our country forward by giving women control over their health care,” Secretary Sebelius said. “This law puts women and their doctors, not insurance companies or the government, in charge of health care decisions.”

The HHS has created a website to explain the newly available benefits.

Republicans have vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act in its entirety, including the benefits enacted Wednesday. Previously enacted provisions of the law allow children to remain on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26, and prevent insurance companies from applying “pee-existing condition” restrictions to children.

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