Aug. 1, 2011— -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced sweeping new guidelines for women's health care which will change everything from distribution of birth control pills to administration of breast exams -- and will mean insured women will no longer pay anything out of their own pocket.
Beginning Aug. 1, 2012, all private insurance plans will be required to cover women's preventive services without a co-pay or deductible. The move is intended to help women have the chance to stop health problems before they start.
"We know that half of women, according to studies, forego or delay preventive care because they can't afford it and under the affordable care act that all changes," Stephanie Cutter, a White House advisor, told ABC News.
Beginning one year from today will be co-pay or deductible-free well-woman visits, screening for gestational diabetes, breast-feeding support, domestic violence screening and all FDA approved birth control methods -- including emergency contraception such as the morning-after pill.
"Most private health care plans, including the private health care plan available to members of Congress, already include most of these services, including contraception. Family planning is something that keeps women healthy, and it was an important piece of today's announcement," Cutter said.
The idea of insurance completely covering birth control has come under heavy fire from conservative groups and pundits.
"Many women who get pregnant are blasted out of their minds when they have sex, and they're not going to use birth control anyway," Fox News' Bill O'Reilly said, while political commentator Dana Perino, also speaking on Fox News, said that "if you can afford a $5 frappucino at Starbucks, you can pay your $5 co-pay."
Meanwhile, conservative groups argue that covering the morning-after pill is the equivalent to using federal dollars for abortion. Cutter, however, says that the new law is about focusing on woman's health.
"It's already illegal to use federal dollars to provide abortions -- that is not part of our law. Today is about keeping women healthy, keeping women and their babies healthy," she said.
Many women won't see the benefits till January 2013. However, once the insurance kicks in it will pick-up automatically, so women across the country won't have to sign up for anything.
As for who is picking up the extra cost, White House advisors say they don't believe the changes will impact premiums -- but ultimately, that decision will be made by insurance companies.