HHS Announces Women's Preventive Services Under the Affordable Care Act

Aug 1, 2011, 7:57 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced women’s preventive health services that must be covered without co-pay, co-insurance or deductible under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

New health plans that begin on or after August 1, 2012 will need to include these services:

  • well-woman visits;
  • screening for gestational diabetes;
  • human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing for women 30 years and older;
  • sexually-transmitted infection counseling (complementing previous STI screening requirements);
  • HIV screening and counseling;
  • FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling;
  • breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling; and
  • domestic violence screening and counseling.

Today’s announcement completed the list of preventive services required to be covered at no cost to the consumer by new private health plans under the Affordable Care Act. Services such as mammograms and blood pressure checks were already required by the Act. The included services for women are informed by a report released by the Institute of Medicine last month.

To find out more about today’s announcement, NewPublicHealth spoke with Mayra Alvarez, M.P.A., Director of Public Health Policy in the Office of Health Reform at HHS.

NPH: What will you do to help promote the use of these preventive services?

Mayra Alvarez: That’s a great question. We have strong partnerships with community-based organizations across the country where women can get information and ask their questions. In addition, we’ll be doing our own education campaigns to call attention to the services. State and local health departments, as well as our regional offices around the country, are also a tremendous resources for disseminating information about the covered services.

NPH: What steps will HHS take to ensure quality in these new services?

Mayra Avarez: Interwoven in the Affordable Care Act is an emphasis on quality for all services provided, including the ones announced today. We’ll have more specifics on quality improvement going forward and we’ll be working hard with providers to be sure that they are continually working on quality improvement and providing high quality services. Quality is an ongoing conversation and we’ll be looking for feedback from users of the system to help us maintain and improve quality.

NPH: What about women who may be reluctant to take advantage of some of the newly covered services because of cultural concerns?

Mayra Alvarez: Cultural competency among providers is a goal. We’ll be working with various agencies to help make sure that providers and patients feel comfortable and that cultural issues are addressed. We are also working to ensure that the healthcare workforce is culturally competent and diverse, to best meet the needs of communities.

>>Read more about today’s announcement here.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.