WASHINGTON – Starting today, nearly 1.1 million women in Washington state will no longer be charged a co-pay for birth control, HIV screening and several other health care services under the Affordable Care Act.
The 2010 law requires insurance companies to fully cover preventive services in eight categories for women whose health plans begin or are renewed on or after Aug. 1.
Eligible women will get a free “wellness” visit every year, and women 30 and older can get testing every three years to prevent cervical cancer.
“This law puts women and their doctors, not insurance companies or the government, in charge of health care decisions,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said.
For women who are pregnant or nursing, the new preventive services include breast-feeding support, counseling and supplies like breast pumps, as well as screening for gestational diabetes, which HHS lists as one of the most serious pregnancy-related diseases.
“Because of this law, women will be armed with the proper tools and resources in order to have a healthy pregnancy,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Tuesday in a floor speech.
Under the new requirements, insurers won’t be able to charge women a co-pay for access to birth-control methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including condoms and tubal ligation. Certain nonprofit religious organizations, such as churches and schools, are not required to cover those services.
The contraception controversy that flared months ago has not gone away. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., called the HHS mandate “a dangerous expansion of government power at the expense of religious freedom, which should concern all Americans.”
House Republicans, who voted last month to repeal all of the law that they call Obamacare, will continue working to repeal the law and replace it with something better, she said.
But Murray said she and her colleagues will not allow “the clock to be rolled back.”
“We should protect the rights of the millions of Americans who do believe that family planning is the right choice for them,” she said. “They don’t deserve to have politics or ideology prevent them from getting the coverage they deserve.”
The act will also provide women with coverage of screening and counseling for domestic violence and sexually transmitted infections like HIV.