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IOM Panel Recommends Contraceptive Coverage

The Institute of Medicine released a report on Tuesday recommending that all insurers be required to cover contraceptives as one of the preventive services under health reform, allowing women to receive birth control, including Plan B and other emergency contraceptives, at no cost. The ACA mandates that insurers must provide free “preventive health services” to the patient.

The US Dept of Health and Human Services had tasked the nonpartisan, nongovernmental Institute of Medicine to help identify services that must be covered for women. Other services include screening to detect domestic violence, HIV screening, counseling/equipment for breastfeeding, screening for gestational diabetes, DNA testing for HPV as a part of cervical cancer screening, and annual preventive-care visits. The IOM panel “did not consider cost or cost-effectiveness in [their] deliberations” but did state that “contraception is highly cost-effective,” particularly in light of the fact that almost half of all pregnancies in the US are unintended and 40% of such pregnancies end in abortion.

Many private insurers provide contraceptive coverage, but oftentimes with co-payments that have increased in recent years.

The report was, as expected, divisive. While obstetricians, gynecologists, public health experts and Democratic women in Congress expressed their support, more conservative groups quickly denounced the recommendations.

The full report is available online.

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