Make sure women's health care is considered basic health care
Half of all pregnancies in America are unplanned.
It's a stunning statistic driven at least in part by rising health care costs and increasingly unaffordable co-pays. When you add in an economy that has left many people struggling to just make ends meet, you can see how millions of American women have found basic contraceptive health services are out of reach.
But there is good news: a new report just released has recommended that no-cost preventive health care coverage for women, including contraceptive services, should be adopted as the nation-wide standard under the Affordable Care Act.
Giving all women access to these basic preventive services allows them to take charge of their own health care and makes it easier for them to stay healthy and avoid unwanted pregnancies.
Increasing access to preventive health services is critical to reducing long-term health care costs and was at the heart of the fight for health care reform. (And don't forget it was Democratic women in the House and Senate who were on the front lines of that fight.)
The report released this week is from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), an independent, non-profit organization affiliated with the National Academy of Sciences. Under the health care reform law passed last year, the Obama Administration will have to decide what services should be classified as "preventive." The law requires preventive procedures be covered without co-pay in all new insurance policies. The Obama Administration is expected to act on the IOM's new report later this summer.
I know there will be those who oppose classifying birth control as basic health care and say that somehow it's an option that women don't really need. The truth is, for women of reproductive age, contraceptive care is basic health care.
In addition to coverage for birth control, the report recommends that all new insurance policies provide no-cost coverage for:
- One free well-woman preventive visit a year
- Improved screening and counseling for sexually transmitted diseases and cervical cancer
- Services for pregnant women including screening for gestational diabetes and comprehensive breastfeeding counseling and support
- Screening and counseling for domestic violence
Last summer, I joined some of my colleagues in urging the Obama Administration to recommend full coverage for contraceptive services and basic health care screening. Next week we will write to the Administration asking them to follow the recommendations of this report and put basic health care back within reach for millions of American women.