ABC News’ Amy Bingham reports:
A report released today and requested by the government recommends that the “full range” of birth control methods, including the “morning after pill” known as Plan B, and oral contraceptives, should be offered to “all women with reproductive capacity” at no cost under the Affordable Care Act.
The Department of Health and Human Services requested the study to determine which preventative services are vital to women’s health and well-being and should be added to the co-pay free list.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will make a decision by Aug. 1 on whether or not to include the recommendations. They would go into effect one year after Sebelius makes her decision.
“This report is historic,” Sebelius said in a statement today. “Before today, guidelines regarding women’s health and preventive care did not exist.”
Planned Parenthood lauded the report in a statement.
“Millions of women, especially young women, struggle every day to afford prescription birth control,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Today’s recommendation brings us a step closer to ensuring that all newly insured women under the health care reform law will have access to prescription birth control without out-of-pocket expenses. This would be a tremendous stride forward for women’s health in this country.”
But social conservative groups said it would lead to government-sponsored abortion.
The Family Research Council, a Christian advocacy group, said including Plan B in the Affordable Care Act’s insurance coverage “essentially would mandate coverage for abortion.”
“If HHS includes these mandates, the conscience rights of millions of Americans will be violated,” Jeanne Monahan, the director of the council’s Center for Human Dignity, said in a statement. “HHS should focus on items and services that prevent actual diseases, and not include controversial services just to placate the abortion industry.”
In an April Thomson Reuters-NPR Health poll, 77 percent of respondents said they believed private medical insurance should cover oral contraceptives, commonly known as “the pill.” Only a slightly fewer 74 percent said it should be covered in government-sponsored plans.
The Guttmacher Institute, a research group that advocates for abortion rights, estimated that unintended pregnancies cost taxpayers about $11 billion per year because two-thirds of them are funded by public insurance such as Medicaid.
Other services recommended by the committee include STD and HIV counseling, gestational diabetes screening for pregnant women, counseling and equipment to promote breast-feeding, screening and counseling to help prevent domestic violence, yearly preventative care visits and human papillomavirus testing for women older than 30 to help prevent cervical cancer.
The study particularly focused on women because there were no previous guidelines on women's preventative care, which is required to be covered under the Affordable Care Act.
"The eight services we identified are necessary to support women's optimal health and well-being. Each recommendation stands on a foundation of evidence supporting its effectiveness." said Linda Rosenstock, the study’s committee chair and dean of the University of California Los Angeles’ School of Public Health.
ABC News’ Brian Hartman contributed to this report.