KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

New HHS Rule Requires Insurance Coverage For Contraception

The regulations, which were issued Monday by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, implement what is likely to be one of the most wide-reaching and popular provisions of the health law.

The Washington Post: New U.S. Rules Require Insurance Coverage For Contraception
Marking a new milestone in long-running efforts to make health insurance more equitable for women, the Obama administration announced Monday that tens of millions of women will soon be able to get birth control, breast pumps, HIV tests and five other categories of preventive services without co-pays or other out-of-pocket insurance charges. The rules issued by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius amount to one of the most wide-reaching and potentially popular provisions of the health-care law adopted last year (Aizenman, 8/1).

The New York Times: Insurance Coverage For Contraception Is Required
The Obama administration issued new standards on Monday that require health insurance plans to cover all government-approved contraceptives for women, without co-payments or other charges (Pear, 8/1).

PBS Newshour: Birth Control Will Soon Be Co-Pay Free For Most U.S. Women
Despite a firestorm of criticism from conservative and religious groups, the guidelines include full coverage of all FDA-approved contraception methods. That includes Plan B - the so-called "morning-after pill" - which some consider to be a form of abortion. Also included are screening for gestational diabetes, testing for human papillomavirus (HPV) for women 30 years and older, counseling for sexually transmitted infections, and HIV screening and counseling (Kane, 8/1).

CBS: Insurers Must Offer Women Free Birth Control: What Else?
In a nod to social and religious conservatives, the rules issued Monday by Sebelius include a provision that would allow religious institutions to opt out of offering birth control coverage. "It's a step in the right direction, but it's not enough," said Jeanne Monahan, a policy expert for the conservative Family Research Council. As it now stands, the conscience clause offers only a "fig leaf" of protection, she added, because it may not cover faith-based groups engaged in social action and other activities that do not involve worship. Who's going to pay for all the free birth control? The cost will be spread among other people with health insurance, resulting in slightly higher premiums. That may be offset to some degree with savings from diseases prevented, or pregnancies that are planned to minimize any potential ill effects to the mother and baby (Freeman, 8/1).

Capsules, KHN's News Blog: Free Birth Control For Many, Courtesy Of HHS
With co-payments of $10 to $35 a month, birth control pills can add up to an expensive precaution for American women, even those with private insurance. But a new rule issued today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services makes those fees a worry of the past for many insured women. Under the health overhaul passed by Congress last year, private insurers will now be required to provide women with a whole range of preventive services, including birth control, without charging a co-payment, co-insurance or deductible (Gold, 8/1).

The Wall Street Journal: Law Eases Availability Of Birth Control
The requirement is part of the broader effort in the law to make preventive benefits more accessible to insured Americans. The new regulation classifies methods of contraception approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a preventive service, opening the door for millions of women to get doctor-prescribed birth-control pills, sterilization and other means of birth control with no out-of-pocket cost. The move is a major win for those who favor broad access to birth control and will help some lower-income women get such services (Adamy, 8/2).

Reuters: U.S. Says Insurers Must Fully Cover Birth Control
The guidelines, a product of last year's health care overhaul, go into effect on Monday, and require insurers to do away with co-payments on coverage of preventive care services for women in all new plans beginning in August 2012. … The newly required coverage also includes free screenings for gestational diabetes, testing for human papillomavirus in women over 30, counseling for HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and screening for domestic violence (Selyukh, 8/2).

The Boston Globe: Insurers Told To Cover Contraception In Full
Mothers who choose to breast-feed will be offered free lactation counseling and rented equipment, such as breast pumps, to help continue breast-feeding after they return to work. … Religious employers will be able to opt out of the contraception requirement. But the opt-out provision offered little more than "a fig leaf of conscience protection,'' said Jeanne Monahan, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, a Washington nonprofit. She said the federal health agency pretended to take opponents' interests into account but left them with the choice of enrolling in a plan they object to on moral grounds or going without coverage. Premiums are expected to rise with the new offerings, but federal health officials said they haven't calculated how much (Conaboy and Kotz, 8/2).

San Francisco Chronicle: New Health Care Coverage For Women Unveiled
Thousands of women in California will be eligible for free birth control, domestic violence counseling, sexual disease screening and breastfeeding support under new health care guidelines unveiled Monday by the White House that require insurance plans to cover the services as preventive care. Women's groups in the Bay Area and beyond hailed the landmark move, part of the federal health care law approved last year, as an effort that could save lives and money. Federal officials said the new guidelines, which go into effect by 2012, could benefit as many as 34 million women 18 to 64 years old who aren't covered for such services. Conservatives criticized the plan, saying the White House may be engaged in an expensive boondoggle in its attempts to appeal to women voters, while businesses worried that added costs could raise insurance premiums and harm small businesses (Marinucci, Baker and Colliver, 8/2). 

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.