Government Panel Recommends Expanding Birth Control Access

July 21, 2011

On Wednesday, the Institute of Medicine recommended that insurers cover, at no cost, expanded preventive care for women. In its report to the Department of Health and Human Services, the IOM — an independent, nonprofit health organization that lawmakers rely upon for insight on health care — recommended that “the full range” of approved contraceptive methods be included among preventive-care services available to women without a co-payment or cost sharing. The IOM also recommended that education and counseling related to family planning, screening for gestational diabetes, HPV testing as part of cervical cancer screening for women over 30, counseling on sexually transmitted infections, HIV counseling and screening, counseling and equipment for breast-feeding, yearly wellness visits, and screening and counseling for domestic violence be covered without a co-payment or cost sharing.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will oversee the final decision on covered services.

While these recommendations aren’t final (HHS will make the final decision in August), the IOM’s decision is great news. Women have been fighting for decades for access to contraception, and the IOM’s decision is recognition of the critical importance of women’s right to control their fertility and the timing of their children.

AAUW has supported women’s access to birth control since 1935. Family planning fosters self-sufficiency, improves health, and educates people on ways to protect themselves and their families from the spread of sexually transmitted infections. In a country where half of all pregnancies are unintended and the rate of sexually transmitted infections is one of the highest in the industrialized world, expanding Americans’ ability to access preventive health care is sound public policy.

As the IOM put it, “Positioning preventive care as the foundation of the U.S. health care system is critical to ensuring Americans’ health and well-being. Women particularly stand to benefit from additional preventive health services.” AAUW couldn’t agree more.

Beth Scott By:   |   July 21, 2011

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