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Health Department Makes Birth Control Free

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued new guidelines on Monday ensuring that women will receive birth control and other preventive care for free.

Under the guidelines, new health insurance plans will be required to cover women’s preventive services—including annual visits to the gynecologist, breast-feeding support, sexually-transmitted infection counseling and domestic violence screening—without charging a co-payment, co-insurance or deductible.

Additionally, the guidelines state that contraception and screening for gestational diabetes, human papillomavirus and HIV must be issued to patients free of charge. DNA testing for women 30 and over will also be covered under the new guidelines.

Insurance companies must include these services without cost sharing beginning on or after Aug. 1, 2012.

The guidelines are based on recommendations made by the independent Institute of Medicine, which was commissioned by the HHS to provide recommendations for specific preventive measures that meet women’s unique health care needs.

Earlier this year, HHS released similar rules, under the Affordable Care Act requiring that all new private health plans cover several other evidence-based preventive services such as mammograms, colonoscopies, blood pressure checks and childhood immunizations without charging a co-payment, deductible or co-insurance. According to HHS, the Affordable Care Act also made recommended preventive services free to those on Medicare.

“The Affordable Care Act helps stop health problems before they start,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a written statement.  “These historic guidelines are based on science and existing literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need.”

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