If health care reform hasn't already sufficiently angered opponents by requiring everyone to purchase health insurance beginning in 2014, it will likely kindle a firestorm by making contraceptives and voluntary sterilization procedures more affordable for American women.
On Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced new preventive-care guidelines that will require all health insurance policies written on or after Aug. 1, 2012, to offer contraceptives and other women's health services without copays, coinsurance or deductibles.
Included in the guidelines: voluntary sterilization procedures, breastfeeding support and equipment, annual well-woman visits, counseling on HIV and sexually transmitted diseases and screenings for human papillomavirus, or HPV, gestational diabetes and domestic violence.
The HHS guidelines follow the July recommendations by the independent Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences that President Barack Obama tapped to review which women-centric preventive services should be covered under the Affordable Care Act, or ACA.
Health care reform already requires new health insurance policies to include mammograms, colonoscopies, blood pressure and cholesterol checks as well as childhood immunizations without copays, coinsurance or deductibles. The ACA makes these evidence-based preventive services available free to Medicaid recipients.
The announcement drew cheers from Planned Parenthood of America president Cecile Richards. "Today is a historic victory for women's health and women across the country," she said. "Covering birth control without copays is one of the most important steps we can take to prevent unintended pregnancy and keep women and children healthy."
It also saves taxpayers money. A 2006 study by the Guttmacher Institute found that unintended pregnancies accounted for half of the 2 million publicly-funded births each year, at a cost to taxpayers of more than $11 billion.
Not so happy with the news were religious and insurance groups, on moral and economic grounds respectively.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of Committee on Pro-Life Activities with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNN: "Pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible."
Anticipating the pushback, the Obama administration released an amendment along with the new guidelines that allows religious institutions that offer health insurance to their employees to make the call on whether to cover contraceptive services.
My guess is, congressional opponents to health care reform will return from their August vacations refreshed and re-inflamed with righteous indignation over this development.
And I sincerely hope their mothers have them on speed dial.
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