Jul 26, 2011
Last week the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report that included a list of recommended preventive health services for women that should be covered by health insurance plans at zero additional cost to the patient.
The IOM is an independent, non-profit organization that serves as the health and medicine arm of the National Academies. The organization identified gaps in the existing government recommendations on women’s preventive care. It reviewed and added to these recommendations based on whether the condition to be prevented has a large impact on women’s health and well-being, affects a significant number of women, and the preventive service has been strongly demonstrated to be effective.
Here’s the list of recommended services, from the IOM press release (http://goo.gl/lCZ30):
Screening for gestational diabetes
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) testing as part of cervical cancer screening for women over 30
Counseling on sexually transmitted infections
Counseling and screening for HIV
Contraceptive methods and counseling to prevent unintended pregnancies
Lactation counseling and equipment to promote breast-feeding
Screening and counseling to detect and prevent interpersonal and domestic violence
Yearly well-woman preventive care visits to obtain recommended preventive services
The guidelines, if they are approved, would be a significant step forward in women’s health, since eliminating co-pays would greatly enhance the accessibility of these important measures that help prevent chronic disease and enhance overall well-being.
A lot of media attention has been given to the possibility of full coverage for birth control. A lot of insurance plans currently cover birth control, but only partially, with co-pays sometimes reaching about $50 per month, which not all women can afford.
Statistics say that almost half of all the pregnancies (about 3 million) in the United States are unplanned - one of the highest rates in the developed world. According to the IOM report, “Women with unintended pregnancies are more likely to receive delayed or no prenatal care and to smoke, consume alcohol, be depressed, and experience domestic violence during pregnancy. Unintended pregnancy also increases the risk of babies being born preterm or at a low birth weight, both of which raise their chances of health and developmental problems.” Letting women plan their pregnancies by improving access to birth control methods by eliminating co-pay and providing counseling on proper usage is definitely a step in the right direction.
The report was sponsored by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which will be reviewing the recommendations to come up with the official list of essential preventive care services for women. These services will be covered with no co-pay by new insurance plans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. According to an article on the Ms. Magazine blog (http://goo.gl/QSR0E), if HHS secretary Kathleen Sebellius approves and posts these guidelines, “after a one year waiting period new insurance plans will be required to cover these preventative health measures for women... By 2018, the rules will be applied to all insurance plans.”
The HHS will review the IOM’s report and will most likely release the official guidelines on women’s preventive care by August 2.
What do you think of the report? Are there any preventive health services for women you think the IOM missed? Sound off in the comments!