Today is a victorious day for the supporters of Planned Parenthood. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has put into effect the new guidelines requiring health insurance plans beginning on or after August 1, 2012 to cover birth control, among other preventive services. The list of services that will now be covered includes free screenings for conditions such as gestational diabetes and the human papillomavirus (HPV), support for breastfeeding equipment, domestic violence screening, and counseling on sexually transmitted diseases. (View the full list on the Department of Health and Human Services website.)
In July, the U.S. Institute of Medicine recommended that all U.S.-approved birth control methods -- including Plan B, the "morning after pill" -- be added to the federal government's list of preventive health services. The possible inclusion of Plan B on the list of covered preventive services is adding to the already-loud controversial buzz amongst conservative and religious groups.
"Covering birth control without co-pays is one of the most important steps we can take to prevent unintended pregnancy and keep women and children healthy," said Dr. Vanessa Cullins, vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America when the Institute of Medicine recommendations were released.
The guidelines are a part of the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. The act aims to make prevention affordable and accessible for all Americans by requiring health plans to cover recommended preventive services without cost sharing.