Gov't Announces New Health Care Benefits for Women

The federal government has announced new guidelines that will enable women to get preventive health care at no additional cost.

Among the services that new insurance plans will be required to provide, deductible- and copay-free, starting next summer: FDA-approved prescription contraceptives, screening for gestational diabetes, breastfeeding support, supplies and counseling, HIV screening and counseling, human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing for women 30 years and older, sexually transmitted infection counseling and domestic violence screening and counseling.

“We know this kind of care can prevent illness and improve health, but for too long too many Americans have gone without it, in many cases because it costs too much,” said Kathleen Sibelius, Department of Health and Human Services secretary. “That not just bad for Americans’ health, it is bad for economic health.” 

The non-profit National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health lauded the HHS for “taking swift and decisive action.”

“It's a remarkably different set of priorities to make being healthy the goal of healthcare, rather than simply treating illness,” NLIRH interim Executive Director Maria Elena Perez said. “These expanded benefits are welcome news for millions of Latinas and their families as they seek to plan and space their pregnancies, keep their pregnancies healthy, keep their infants healthy, or prevent deadly cancers and illness.”

Latinas are twice as likely to contract cervical cancer as white women, as well as the second highest mortality rate in the country, following black women—so HPV screening is key, the NLIRH says, as are the types of counseling now covered, including breastfeeding (equipment is also covered) and domestic violence: Immigrants are less likely to report domestic violence and while Latinas tend to prefer breastfeeding over formula, work schedules keep many from carrying it out.