Free women’s care benefits take effect
August 1st, 2012
Omaha, NE – Over three hundred thousand women in Nebraska will soon be able to get free birth control and other preventive services through their healthcare plans, as key provisions of the massive healthcare overhaul law go into effect.
The Affordable Care Act, which was passed in 2010, included several provisions that didn’t go into effect right away. Some of those included a package of preventive care specifically targeted to women. Services like annual well-woman exams, screenings for cervical cancer and sexually-transmitted diseases as well as prenatal care, as of today, are required to be covered through health insurance plans at no cost to patients. (Click here for a full list of included benefits)
“The most important thing we can do to preserve the health of women is to encourage them to participate in screenings for various diseases,” said Dr. Carl Smith, chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. “Things that we might be able to treat, improve the outcome and thereby improve their health.”
Smith said the new provisions may increase demand for services, but many of them can be provided in existing healthcare facilities. “So it’s not like the facilities are going to have to invest in new technology,” Smith said. “The problem may be, for some facilities, capacity. There may not be enough providers, enough appointment slots, available for women to avail themselves of these opportunities.”
Smith said many of the services, such as breastfeeding support or domestic violence screenings during pregnancy, could be provided during regular appointment times.
One of the new provisions that now takes effect has sparked controversy: the free coverage of contraception. The law includes exclusions for religious-affiliated organizations, but several Catholic dioceses and colleges have filed suit, arguing the provision may force them to provide care they view as morally objectionable. Some Republicans in Congress have joined the chorus of opposition. Senator Mike Johanns, Nebraska’s Republican Senator issued a statement denouncing what he called an “infringement on our First Amendment Rights” and the result of an “overzealous federal government.”
The new provisions take effect in any new health insurance plans signed as of Wednesday, or when old plans are renewed.
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