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Institute of Medicine Recommends Free Birth Control, Other Preventive Services for Women

Jul 26, 2011 - 7 comments









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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 (
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 (, 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!

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168348 tn?1379357075
by ChitChatNine, Jul 27, 2011
*  Mammograms should also be on the list!

Great info - I wasn't aware of this.  Please keep us posted and everyone ---- add to the list!!!!


377493 tn?1356502149
by adgal, Jul 27, 2011
I too think this is such a good idea.  I would add Papp smears (or is that there and I missed it?) and education on breast self exam's.  I know that's one of the important things I was taught as a young women.  Can save lives.

875426 tn?1325528416
by LivingInHope, Jul 28, 2011
Pap smears is there, adgal- that's the screening for the human papilloma virus.  I think most people who might possibly have this virus would be willing to pay a co-payment because HPV can cause cancer and women don't want cancer... same with the omitted mammogram.  I think self-preservation is a big motivator for people.  It should be up to the insurance company if they want to charge a co-pay or not, but if they do, they should try to make it low enough to make sure these screenings aren't cost prohibitive for patients.    

Preventing pregnancy is not preventing a disease in women and insurance companies should not be required to offer birth control pills free of charge.   Don't they realize when they encourage the decrease in the numbers of future American born citizens, even if they don't value life (Planned Parenthood supports this recommendation of free BCPs), they also decrease the tax revenues so many in Washington so love to spend that these possible future citizens could have brought in?

I do think HMOs who get medicare dollars and charge premiums in addition (which is the case with many medicare HMOs), ought to give an account for how much revenue they take in versus how much they compensate hospitals, labs, doctors, and pharmacies for the goods and services provided to patients in those HMO plans.  And if the HMOs are found to be over-charging their medicare members, they ought to lower their premiums or co-pays.  But they also ought to adequately be compensating those who provide us with goods and services, so they will still be willing to take our medical insurance.

Avatar universal
by Angela1971, Jul 29, 2011
I think preventive help for older women should cover all of the above. Especially for women 40-60 who are experiencing "odd" moments with their bodies during menopause or after hysterectomies.

Avatar universal
by mamaree, Feb 04, 2012
Agree with LivinginHope. I choose not to be pregnant, but will feel undermined in my healthcare options if it becomes further standardized to consider pregnancy a disease. Pregnancy is not a disease, neither is my fertility. How would I feel being taken care of in pregnancy with this view institutionalized? If I did beleive in "the pill" I would be afraid  for  any person dependent on a pharmaceutical so mass produced to be used constantly for most of life, free and under political cover of necessity and near impunity.
Women take risks, and bear the consequences of risks. Of all the things that should be done to protect women, girls, and people on the wild ride of the end of our fertility, other safeguards should be built first rather than what big pharmaceuticals can offer. I  tried acupuncture to help sleep apnea, and unintentionaly, it seemed to trigger  a huge help for my perimenopause symptoms. I restarted my ovulation clear signs. . Knowledge isnt everything, and its not complete, but it is some power, no? If  i wasnt taught a little NFP when I was at my first period ever (not that I appreciated it much then) and if I hadnt had a class when I got married, I would know even less about Perimenopause.
It does ring true within Angelas point the fact that both birth control and you know what came to be demanded more not because of teenage concerns, but perimenopausal womens concerns. THeres more than one way to meet those needs. If one so "absolute" and proven is the only way if forced on people who would choose another way, thats a shallower depth of knowledge power and options, not to mention respect for the people treated, over against crowning a certain standard medical solution supreme.Per other medical paths I've been down, I refuse to be a blip again if I can help it. (Isnt that why we all seek answers on a site like this?)  Im totally opposed to forcing me and others  paying for, against conscience, institutionalizing and promoting "the pill."(and worse). I am here to figure out the mycycles app and you can bet when I do my 2 girls will have a lesson too. Teaching girls fertility awareness  will instead impower her, values her gifts and ability to navigate and read signs, and challenges her to seek relationships that care about her health. Very different from the message to a kid (or anyone) that ANY pharmaceutical can promise freedom from risk.

Avatar universal
by rams722, Jul 10, 2012
hi doctor my wife is suffering with kidney stone problem since 10day she is suffering with pain near her kidney allot she is not able to sleep also so could u help me in this regard

Avatar universal
by Africare, Aug 24, 2012
My breast feeding wife complain of pain at the left side of the nipple.
What is your suggestion.


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