The ACA Gives Most Women Free Preventive Benefits; 90% of All Insurance Plans Expected to Comply by 2014


Health care law offers free preventive services to 47 million women.

a mother and her newborn child

Forty-seven million women are getting greater control over their health care and access to eight new prevention-related health care services without paying more out of their own pocket beginning Aug. 1, 2012, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently announced.

Previously some insurance companies did not cover these preventive services for women at all under their health plans, while some women had to pay deductibles or co-pays for the care they needed to stay healthy. The new rules in the health care law requiring coverage of these services take effect at the next renewal date – on or after Aug. 1, 2012—for most health insurance plans. For the first time ever, women will have access to even more life-saving preventive care free of charge.

According to a new HHS report also released today, approximately 47 million women are in health plans that must cover these new preventive services at no charge.  Women, not insurance companies, can now make health decisions that will keep them healthy, catch potentially serious conditions at an earlier state, and protect them and their families from crushing medical bills.

“President Obama is moving our country forward by giving women control over their health care,” Secretary Sebelius said. “This law puts women and their doctors, not insurance companies or the government, in charge of health care decisions.”

What services are now covered?

The eight new prevention-related services are:

  • Well-woman visits.
  • Gestational diabetes screening that helps protect pregnant women from one of the most serious pregnancy-related diseases.
  • Domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling.
  • FDA-approved contraceptive methods, and contraceptive education and counseling.
  • Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling.
  • HPV DNA testing, for women 30 or older.
  • Sexually transmitted infections counseling for sexually-active women.
  • HIV screening and counseling for sexually-active women.

For women who are pregnant or nursing, the new preventive services include gestational diabetes screening as well as breast-feeding support, counseling and supplies. Health services already provided under the health care law include folic acid supplements for women who may become pregnant, Hepatitis B screening for pregnant women, and anemia screening for pregnant women.

These services are based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, which relied on independent physicians, nurses, scientists, and other experts as well as evidence-based research to develop its recommendations. These preventive services will be offered without cost sharing beginning August 1, 2012 in all new health plans.

Who does not have to offer these benefits?

Group health plans and issuers that have maintained grandfathered status are not required to cover these services. In addition, certain nonprofit religious organizations, such as churches and schools, are not required to cover these services. The Obama administration will continue to work with all employers to give them the flexibility and resources they need to implement the health care law in a way that protects women’s health while making common-sense accommodations for values like religious liberty.

What is “grandfathered status”?

Health plans that existed before the health care reform law have been “grandfathered” in, meaning that they do not need to comply with the ACA coverage requirements until significant changes (e.g. benefit cuts, cost sharing increases, etc. are made to the plan. Grandfathered plans don’t have to follow the new preventive services cost sharing rules. All non-grandfathered private health plans have to comply with the new preventive health services coverage and cost-sharing rules.

A recent survey found that 90% of all large U.S. companies expect that their health plans will lose grandfathered status by 2014. – Stephen Miller, Society for Human Resources Management, Nine of 10 Big Companies Expect to Lose Grandfathered Status (Aug. 20, 2010),

Eventually all plans will lose their grandfathered status and distinctions between the two types of plans will disappear. At that point, all plans will cover these important preventive health services without cost sharing.

Do religious organizations have to comply with the contraceptive coverage requirements of the ACA?

The Department of Health and Human Services has proposed a rule that would exempt a small segment of religious employers, such as churches, from this contraceptive coverage requirement. This decision is not yet final and in its current form, it would not apply to most religiously-affiliated employers such as religious hospitals, church-affiliated schools and universities, and religiously-affiliated charities. Therefore, most religiously-affiliated employers will have to comply with this law. (Courtesy of the National Women’s Law Center FAQ on Contraceptive Coverage in the New Health Care Law: Frequently Asked Questions)



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  1. Dr. Salvatore J. Giorgianni August 6, 2012

    This is a wonderful benefit.

    What about men and boys? Is there equal coverage and benefits?

    Dr. Salvatore J. Giorgianni, Jr.
    Chair-Elect, American Public Health Association Men’s Health Caucus
    Science Advisor, Men’s Health Network

    • Mary Pat Whaley August 7, 2012

      Hi Dr. Giorgianni,

      Yes! men and boys also have access to preventive care. Here are some additional benefits under the ACA as listed by Matthew Taber, MS on his site

      Sec. 2712 – A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage shall not rescind such plan or coverage with respect to an enrollee once the enrollee is covered under such plan or coverage involved
      Sub Sec. 2713 – A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage shall, at a minimum provide coverage for and shall not impose any cost sharing requirements for-evidence-based items or services that have in effect a rating of `A’ or `B’ in the current recommendations of the United States Preventive Services Task Force; immunizations that have in effect a recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with respect to the individual involved; and with respect to infants, children, and adolescents, evidence-informed preventive care and screenings provided for in the comprehensive guidelines supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration. with respect to women, such additional preventive care and screenings not described in paragraph (1) as provided for in comprehensive guidelines supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration for purposes of this paragraph.
      Sub Sec. 2714 – A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage that provides dependent coverage of children shall continue to make such coverage available for an adult child (who is not married) until the child turns 26 years of age.
      Sub Section 2704 – A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage may not impose any preexisting condition exclusion with respect to such plan or coverage.
      Sec. 2302 – A voluntary election to have payment made for hospice care for a child (as defined by the State) shall not constitute a waiver of any rights of the child to be provided with, or to have payment made under this title for, services that are related to the treatment of the child’s condition for which a diagnosis of terminal illness has been made.
      Sec. 2502 – Agents when used to promote smoking cessation, including agents approved by the Food and Drug Administration under the over-the-counter monograph process for purposes of promoting, and when used to promote, tobacco cessation.
      Sec. 2706 – The Secretary of Health and Human Services (referred to in this section as the `Secretary’) shall establish the Pediatric Accountable Care Organization Demonstration Project to authorize a participating State to allow pediatric medical providers that meet specified requirements to be recognized as an accountable care organization for purposes of receiving incentive payments (as described under subsection (d)), in the same manner as an accountable care organization is recognized and provided with incentive payments under section 1899 of the Social Security Act (as added by section 3022).
      Sec. 4104 – elimination of coinsurance (co-pay) on preventive services (ie. physical exams). Elimination of coinsurance (co-pays) in outpatient hospital settings.
      Sec. 4108 – incentives for prevention of chronic diseases. A program described in this paragraph is a comprehensive, evidence-based, widely available, and easily accessible program, proposed by the State and approved by the Secretary, that is designed and uniquely suited to address the needs of Medicaid beneficiaries and has demonstrated success in helping individuals achieve one or more of the following: ceasing use of tobacco products, controlling or reducing their weight, lowering their cholesterol, lowering their blood pressure, avoiding the onset of diabetes or, in the case of a diabetic, improving the management of that condition.
      Sec. 4204 – Funds received under a grant under this subsection shall be used to implement interventions that are recommended by the Task Force on Community Preventive Services (as established by the Secretary, acting through the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) or other evidence-based interventions, including–providing immunization reminders or recalls for target populations of clients, patients, and consumers;educating targeted populations and health care providers concerning immunizations in combination with one or more other interventions; reducing out-of-pocket costs for families for vaccines and their administration; carrying out immunization-promoting strategies for participants or clients of public programs, including assessments of immunization status, referrals to health care providers, education, provision of on-site immunizations, or incentives for immunization; providing for home visits that promote immunization through education, assessments of need, referrals, provision of immunizations, or other services; providing reminders or recalls for immunization providers;conducting assessments of, and providing feedback to, immunization providers; any combination of one or more interventions described in this paragraph; or immunization information systems to allow all States to have electronic databases for immunization records.
      Sec. 5202 – The Secretary shall establish and carry out a pediatric specialty loan repayment program under which the eligible individual agrees to be employed full-time for a specified period (which shall not be less than 2 years) in providing pediatric medical subspecialty, pediatric surgical specialty, or child and adolescent mental and behavioral health care, including substance abuse prevention and treatment services.
      Best wishes!

      Mary Pat