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Institute of Medicine: Family Planning Should be Covered without Co-Pays


July 27, 2011

Birth control, family planning counseling and annual well-woman exams should be covered by health insurance without co-pays or deductibles. That recommendation comes from the Institute of Medicine at the request of the Department of Health and Human Services, which is looking at updating the preventive services list for federal health care reform.

Lois Uttley, the director of Raising Women's Voices, says getting rid of additional fees makes sense. She commonly hears from women with health coverage who can't afford contraceptives because of out-of-pocket costs.

"We hear of women who are being asked to pay anywhere from 25 to even $60 to fill a birth control prescription. In these tough economic times, that's something that a lot of women just can't afford."

The out-of-pocket for an IUD can be hundreds of dollars. It's important to note that the coverage will not be free, but instead be included in the package of preventive services covered by premiums paid by women, their families and their employers.

Contraceptive services and counseling are often part of what's called a "well-woman" exam. Susan Wood is the director of The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. She describes the "well-woman" medical appointment.

"At that visit, you get a Pap smear, a blood pressure check, you might have screening for STDs, you might get a breast exam. It's a chance to get all the preventive services available, at least once a year."

Wood says the Institute of Medicine recommendations add to the current list of health care reform preventive coverage deemed important for health and economic well-being.

"Getting preventive services covered without co-pays and deductibles so that women, and men, and kids will get preventive care without barriers of having to pay out-of-pocket for those services."

If HHS adopts the recommendations, health insurance policies would change in about a year to cover the "well woman" exams and screenings without co-pays or deductibles.

The Institute of Medicine is an independent panel of doctors and health experts.

Content provided on behalf of Communications Consortium Media Center. Contact: Andrea Sybinsky, 202-326-8711,,


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