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HHS approves IOM advice on women's preventive care

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Aug. 8, 2011

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The Dept. of Health and Human Services on Aug. 1 added eight additional services to the list of evidence-based preventive care that many health plans must provide without co-pays or other cost-sharing under a provision in the health system reform law. The services include the entire list of services recommended on July 19 by the Institute of Medicine, an independent organization.

The additional services include all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraception, wider HIV screening, and domestic violence screening and care. Health plans also must provide accompanying counseling for these and other services.

"We are especially pleased that women will soon be able to access all approved contraceptive methods without co-pays or added cost," said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families.

But health insurers objected to the scope of the covered list, saying patients ultimately would pay a price for the mandates.

"Unfortunately, the preventive care coverage recommendations recently issued by the IOM would increase the number of unnecessary physician office visits and raise the cost of coverage," said Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans. "The IOM's recommendations would broaden the scope of mandated preventive services beyond existing evidence-based guidelines, suspend current cost-sharing arrangements for certain services, and encourage consumers to obtain a prescription for routine supplies that are currently purchased over the counter."

HHS also released an amendment to the health reform law's prevention regulation that gives religious institutions offering insurance to their employees the ability to decline to offer contraception services. The department based the provision on laws in most of the 28 states that require health plans to cover contraception. Ness said the amendment was unnecessary and noted that the IOM did not recommend it. HHS is accepting comments on the exemption.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2011/08/08/gvbf0808.htm.

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