The Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandated insurance companies to provide, free of charge, a set of prevention-related health services based on recommendations by the Institute of Medicine; this mandate went into effect on Aug. 1.
These include screening, testing, and counseling for gestational diabetes during pregnancy; breastfeeding support and supplies; wellness visits; HPV DNA testing for women over 30; screening, testing, and counseling for sexually transmitted infections and HIV; domestic violence screening and counseling, and FDA-approved contraceptive methods, education, and counseling.
Access without charge to these preventive services are in addition to other vital screenings mandated under the ACA, such as mammograms, cholesterol screenings, and flu shots that went into effect last year.
I strongly support these prevention-related and life-saving health care services that are now available free of charge to American women.
Men and children are also able to take advantage of preventive services at no extra charge under the health care law. These include flu shots and other immunizations, and screenings for cancers, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and depression.
In January, President Obama issued a draft set of regulations on how insurers and employers were to implement these services. Churches have always been exempt from provisions related to contraception, but in response to concerns raised by religiously-affiliated institutions, the president changed the regulations in February so that such institutions do not have to provide or pay for these services, but rather their insurance company needs to reach out to covered employees, inform them of the contraception services, and offer the option of such coverage, should an employee choose it.
I support this commonsense compromise that balances carefully the needs of a religiously-affiliated employer with the needs of its individual employees, especially women.