New health law may in­clude birth con­trol

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY PAIGE WIN­FIELD CUN­NING­HAM

Free birth con­trol, in­clud­ing the con­tro­ver­sial “morn­ing-af­ter” pill, could soon be added to a list of ser­vices in­sur­ers must fully cover un­der Pres­i­dent Obama’s health care law.

A non­par­ti­san In­sti­tute of Medicine panel rec­om­mended July 19 that con­tra­cep­tion and a hand­ful of other ser­vices re­lated to women’s health be con­sid­ered pre­ven­ta­tive and must be cov­ered by in­surance com­pa­nies with­out charg­ing co-pay­ments. Screen­ing for the virus that causes cer­vi­cal cancer and di­a­betes tests dur­ing preg­nancy were among the non­bind­ing sug­ges­tions sent to the Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices.

Pres­i­dent Obama’s 2009 health care over­haul law al­ready re­quires in­sur­ers to pro­vide stan­dard pre­ven­ta­tive care for con­sumers at no ex­tra charge. While HHS al­ready has out­lined most of the qual­i­fy­ing ser­vices, the women’s health rec­om­men­da­tions were con­sid­ered so sen­si­tive that the in­de­pen­dent, non­par­ti­san in­sti­tute was asked to look at the is­sue and re­port its find­ings.

Panel mem­bers iden­ti­fied ser­vices they con­sider nec­es­sary for the health of women, with­out tak­ing cost into con­sid­er­a­tion.

They rec­om­mended in­clud­ing all FDA-ap­proved emer­gency con­tra­cep­tions, in­clud­ing Plan B, the so-called “morningafter pill,” but not RU-486, a more con­tro­ver­sial pill that in­duces abor­tions.

HHS Sec­re­tary Kath­leen Se­be­lius is ex­pected to an­nounce by Aug. 1 which rec­om­men­da­tions will be adopted.

But the rec­om­men­da­tions could still face a fight. Planned Par­ent­hood, the nation’s largest provider of fam­ily plan­ning and abor­tion ser­vices, praised the pro­pos­als, but anti-abor­tion groups were crit­i­cal.

The con­ser­va­tive Fam­ily Re­search Coun­cil said in­clud­ing the morn­ing-af­ter pill in the in­surance guide­lines “es­sen­tially would man­date cov­er­age for abor­tion.”

“If HHS in­cludes these man­dates, the con­science rights of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans will be vi­o­lated,” Jeanne Mon­a­han, the di­rec­tor of the coun­cil’s Cen­ter for Hu­man Dig­nity, said in a state­ment. “HHS should fo­cus on items and ser­vices that pre­vent ac­tual dis­eases, and not in­clude con­tro­ver­sial ser­vices just to pla­cate the abor­tion in­dus­try.”

Other ser­vices rec­om­mended by the panel for cov­er­age in- clude coun­sel­ing on sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tions; screen­ing for HIV; equip­ment and coun­sel­ing to pro­mote breast­feed­ing; screen­ing for do­mes­tic

The conser va­tive Fam­ily Re­search Coun­cil said in­clud­ing the morn­ing-af­ter pill in the in­surance guide­lines “es­sen­tially would man­date cov­er­age for abor­tion.” “If HHS in­cludes these man­dates, the con­science rights of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans will be vi­o­lated,” Jeanne Mon­a­han, the di­rec­tor of the coun­cil’s Cen­ter for Hu­man Dig­nity, said in a state­ment. “HHS should fo­cus on items and ser vices that pre­vent ac­tual dis­eases, and not in­clude con­tro­ver­sial ser vices just to pla­cate the abor­tion in­dus­try.”

vi­o­lence; and an­nual pre­ven­ta­tive care check-ups for women.

Dr. Linda Rosen­stock, dean of the UCLA School of Pub­lic Health, said test­ing for the HPV virus should be paired with an­nual Pap smears, adding that cou­pling the tests pro­vides an “ef­fec­tive screen­ing mech­a­nism” for cer­vi­cal cancer. While women are en­cour­aged to get an­nual Pap smears, reg­u­lar test­ing for HPV is a rel­a­tively new med­i­cal prac­tice.

“We feel the ev­i­dence is quite good to rec­om­mend that should the clin­i­cian and pa­tient de­cide it be ap­pro­pri­ate, cov­er­age be pro­vided,” Dr. Rosen­stock said.

Dr. Rosen­stock said the panel rec­om­mended rou­tine HIV test­ing be­cause many women don’t re­al­ize they’re at risk.

“Un­for­tu­nately, a larger pro­por­tion over time of women at risk are women them­selves who are not en­gag­ing in risky be­hav­ior, but their male het­ero­sex­ual part­ners are en­gag­ing in risky be­hav­ior,” she said.

Sen. Bar­bara A. Mikul­ski, Mary­land Demo­crat, who in­tro­duced the amend­ment re­quir­ing all health plans to cover women’s pre­ven­ta­tive care, ap­plauded the rec­om­men­da­tions.

“We are one step closer to say­ing good­bye to an era when sim­ply be­ing a woman is treated as a pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tion,” Ms. Mikul­ski said. “We are say­ing hello to an era where de­ci­sions about pre­ven­ta­tive care and screen­ings are made by a woman and her doc­tor, not by an in­surance com­pany.”

All for it: Sen. Bar­bara Mikul­ski, Mary­land Demo­crat

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