Free Birth Control?!

Free birth control?! Well, sort of. Last August, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) adopted the women’s health recommendations issued by the Institute of Medicine. By adopting these recommendations, DHHS is requiring new health insurance plans to offer a comprehensive list of women’s health services with no copay or deductible.

Some of these services include:

  • Screening for cervical cancer and HIV
  • Intimate partner violence screening and counseling
  • Prescription birth control coverage

This is great news and you might be wondering when you can take advantage of these benefits. Well, starting on August 1, 2012 most new health insurance plans will be required to cover these services without cost sharing. “New” is really the operative word here. If you are purchasing a new health insurance plan, this ruling applies to you!

“New” can mean many different things, though.  A health insurance plan doesn’t necessarily have to be new to an individual to be considered “new”. Any substantial change to a health insurance plan makes it a new plan under DHHS’ rules.  So, a person might have the same plan as before (say “Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO”) but if that plan made changes to its coverage or cost-sharing, it’s considered a “new” plan.  Once these changes are made to a plan, it loses its grandfathered status and has to obey the new regulations.

What about those of you without any type of new plan? If your plan existed before March 2010 and there haven’t been any big changes to the plan since then, it’s a “grandfathered plan.”  That means the plan doesn’t have to offer these benefits yet, so you probably won’t see a difference in cost. For now we will have to wait and see how insurance companies transition next August.  Health policy experts expect about half of all grandfathered plans to give up their status by 2013, so it’s likely that lots of plans will be offering this new coverage. So, it is possible that this ruling to could lead the way to lessening the cost burden for all women. Here’s to hoping!

If you want to learn more, check out this factsheet!

Also, if you have questions about your specific health insurance, you can always call your insurance company. Usually, there’s a phone number for customer service on the back of the insurance card.

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