Insurers To Cover Birth Control - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Insurers To Cover Birth Control

WASHINGTON - U.S. health insurance companies must offer women free birth control and other preventive health care services under Obama administration rules released on Monday, a historic decision supported by family planning groups and opposed by conservative groups.

The rules from the Health and Human Services Department are part of the nation's healthcare overhaul and largely follow recommendations from an advisory group released last month . Under the new guidelines, no copays would be required.

The U.S. Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, commissioned by the Obama administration, recommended that all U.S.-approved birth control methods -- including the "morning-after pill," taken shortly after intercourse to stop a pregnancy -- be added to the list of preventive health services.

The recommendation faced opposition from conservative and religious groups that balked at using taxpayer money to cover birth control, especially the "morning-after pill."

The guidelines go into effect on Monday, requiring insurers to provide free coverage of preventive care services for women in all new plans beginning in August 2012.

"These historic guidelines are based on science and existing literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.

The HHS added an amendment allowing religious institutions to choose whether to cover contraception services in their insurance. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had urged the HHS to exclude birth control as a service.

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