Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Affordable Care Act Expands Prevention Coverage for Women’s Health and Well-Being


The Affordable Care Act – the health insurance reform legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010 – helps make prevention affordable and accessible for all Americans by requiring health plans to cover recommended preventive services and by eliminating cost sharing. Preventive services that have strong scientific evidence of their health benefits must be covered and plans can no longer charge a patient a copayment, co-insurance or deductible for these services when they are delivered by a network provider. 

Women’s Preventive Services: Required Health Plan Coverage Guidelines

Learn more about the recommended preventive services available to Americans without cost sharing.

Under the Affordable Care Act, women’s preventive health care services – such as mammograms, screenings for cervical cancer, and other services – are covered with no cost sharing for new health plans. However, the law recognizes and HHS understands the need to take into account the unique health needs of women throughout their lifespan. 

The Health Resources and Services Administration-supported health plan coverage guidelines for women’s preventive services below, developed by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), will help ensure that women receive a comprehensive set of preventive services without having to pay a copayment, co-insurance, or a deductible. HHS commissioned an IOM study to review what preventive services are necessary for women’s health and well-being and should be considered in the development of comprehensive guidelines for preventive services for women. HRSA is supporting the IOM’s recommendations on preventive services that address health needs specific to women and fill gaps in existing guidelines.  

Share your comments on the Guidelines: womensguidelines@hrsa.gov 

Health Resources and Services Administration-Supported Women's Preventive Services:  Required Health Plan Coverage Guidelines

Learn more about the Affordable Care Act and the Guidelines for Women’s Preventive Services or find more information about the IOM’s July 2011 report titled Clinical Preventive Services for Women: Closing the Gaps.

These guidelines are effective August 1, 2011.  Accordingly, non-grandfathered plans and issuers are required to provide coverage without cost sharing consistent with these guidelines in the first plan year (in the individual market, policy year) that begins on or after August 1, 2012. 

Type of Preventive ServiceHHS Guideline for Health Insurance CoverageFrequency
Well-woman visits.Well-woman preventive care visit annually for adult women to obtain the recommended preventive services that are age and developmentally appropriate, including preconception and prenatal care.  This well-woman visit should, where appropriate, include other preventive services listed in this set of guidelines, as well as others referenced in section 2713.Annual, although HHS recognizes that several visits may be needed to obtain all necessary recommended preventive services, depending on a woman’s health status, health needs, and other risk factors.*
Screening for gestational diabetes.Screening for gestational diabetes.In pregnant women between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation and at the first prenatal visit for pregnant women identified to be at high risk for diabetes. 

Human papillomavirus testing.


High-risk human papillomavirus DNA testing in women with normal cytology results.

Screening should begin at 30 years of age and should occur no more frequently than every 3 years.


Counseling for sexually transmitted infections.Counseling on sexually transmitted infections for all sexually active women.Annual.

Counseling and screening for human immune-deficiency virus.


Counseling and screening for human immune-deficiency virus infection for all sexually active women.Annual.
Contraceptive methods and counseling.**All Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.As prescribed.
Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling.Comprehensive lactation support and counseling, by a trained provider during pregnancy and/or in the postpartum period, and costs for renting breastfeeding equipment.In conjunction with each birth.
Screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence.Screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence.Annual.

* Refer to recommendations listed in the July 2011 IOM report titled Clinical Preventive Services for Women:  Closing the Gaps concerning individual preventive services that may be obtained during a well-woman preventive service visit.  

For More Information

** Group health plans sponsored by certain religious employers, and group health insurance coverage in connection with such plans, are exempt from the requirement to cover contraceptive services.  A religious employer is one that:  (1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a non-profit organization under Internal Revenue Code section 6033(a)(1) and section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii).  45 C.F.R. §147.130(a)(1)(iv)(B).  

Use the resources below to learn more about women's preventive services:

Read the Guidelines for Women’s Preventive Services at: www.hrsa.gov/womensguidelines/

Read the interim final rule at http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=HHS-OS-2011-0023-0002.

Read the final rule at http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=HHS_FRDOC_0001-0443.

Read a fact sheet on Women's Preventive Services and the Affordable Care Act.

Read a fact sheet on Women's Preventive Services and Religious Institutions.\

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