Women's Preventive Services: Seeking Comments
By Richard Sorian, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs
The Affordable Care Act includes important provisions that ensure tens of millions of Americans get recommended preventive care without paying a copayment or deductible. Thanks to the law, people across the country have greater access to mammograms, colonoscopies, and other preventive services that can help them live healthier, longer lives – all without paying an extra penny out of their own pocket.
The law also recognizes the need to take into account the unique health needs of women throughout their lifespan. That’s why the Affordable Care Act ensures more women can get the special preventive services they need to stay healthy.
On August 1, 2011, the Health Resources and Services Administration within the Department of Health and Human Services adopted Women's Preventive Services: Required Health Plan Coverage Guidelines, which set forth the preventive services – including well-woman visits, support for breastfeeding equipment, contraception, and domestic violence screening – that will be covered without cost sharing in new health plans starting in August 2012. The guidelines followed from recommendations by the independent Institute of Medicine based on scientific evidence.
We understand that some religious organizations have concerns about covering contraception in their employee health plans. Our goal has always been to balance expanding coverage of important preventive services and respecting religious beliefs. That’s why we:
- Give religious organizations the choice of buying or sponsoring insurance that does not cover contraception. This option is modeled on a common exemption available in some of the 28 states that already require coverage of contraception.
- Explored and are open to other definitions of “religious organizations” to ensure organizations that have religious objections to covering contraception can choose whether or not to cover these services.
Now, we want to hear from you. The rule is open for public comment until September 30, 2011. Written comments are important to the process, allowing all interested individuals and groups a chance to weigh in. Public comments are the foundation for improvements to regulations. If, after the comments are received and evaluated, this exemption is modified, its effective date will be aligned with the start of coverage of recommended women’s prevention services on August 1, 2012. We’re looking forward to receiving comments from the American people about this policy and working with all interested stakeholders. We’re committed to meeting our goals of getting women the important health benefits they need and deserve and respecting religious beliefs. You can submit your comments by visiting this page.