Covering women's preventive health is 'paradigm shift' for insurers

As of last Wednesday, insurers are required to provide preventive healthcare and services for women at no additional cost, as mandated under the reform law.

That means that insurers will be providing about 47 million women, according to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services estimates, with eight free services: well-woman visits, gestational diabetes screening, human papillomavirus testing, sexually transmitted disease counseling, HIV screening and counseling, birth control and other contraceptives, breastfeeding support and supplies and domestic violence counseling, Live Insurance News reported.

With these new requirements, insurers are undergoing "a paradigm shift from a healthcare system built on diagnostic treatment of disease toward a foundation of disease prevention and wellness promotion," Paula Johnson, chief of the women's health division at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, told WBUR.

"Before the healthcare law, many insurers didn't even cover basic women's healthcare. Other care plans charged such high copayments that they discouraged many women from getting basic preventive services," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. "So as a result, surveys show that more than half of the women in this country delayed or avoided preventive care because of its cost. That's simply not right."

Women who already have health insurance can access the new benefits immediately. However, health plans that existed before the reform law was passed in 2010 may have received "grandfather" status, exempting them from providing the benefits. According to a 2011 Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 56 percent of women with employer-based insurance are in grandfathered plans, although that number should fall as insurers change the plans and lose their grandfathered status, CNN reported.

What's more, insurers still can deny claims for these required preventive benefits that they deem excessive or unnecessary and can justify such a decision.

To learn more:
- read the Live Insurance News article
- see the WBUR article
- check out the CNN article