It appears likely that all health insurance companies will be required to provide free contraceptives to women next year after an advisory health panel made a formal recommendation to the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).
HHS commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to identify gaps in the department's list of preventive health services already covered for women, reports the Wall Street Journal. The health reform law states that preventive healthcare services must be available free of charge, but didn’t identify specific types of preventive care.
Obama administration officials said they were inclined to accept the IOM's advice, the New York Times reports. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said her agency is "reviewing the report closely" and plans to release its own recommendations "very soon," notes the Washington Post. Her decision will not require further action by Congress.
The IOM specifically recommended that insurers cover "the full range" of contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration and sterilization, notes the WSJ.
In addition to contraceptives, the IOM said health plans should cover screenings to detect domestic violence, HIV, and gestational diabetes in pregnant women. Insurers also should provide counseling and equipment to promote breastfeeding, testing for the human papillomavirus as part of cervical cancer screening, and annual preventive-care visits to help ensure women are healthy when they become pregnant, the Times notes.