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A Welcome Recommendation for Women's Health

Elayne Weiss,
Washington Legislative Office
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July 20, 2011

Yesterday, in its recommendation to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) confirmed what we have long known: contraception is preventive care.

This is a huge step forward for women’s health, as the IOM’s recommendation is a significant move toward ensuring that contraception is provided without co-pays or other out-of-pocket expenses in new insurance plans under the health reform law.

Last summer, the federal government commissioned the IOM, an independent medical authority, to review and recommend women’s preventive health services that should be included in the Department’s final guidelines on preventive services that are expected later this summer. In a true showing of support for women’s health, the IOM recommended that the list of services should include “the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods.”

The IOM’s recommendation, if adopted, will ensure that millions of women have access to the safe and effective contraception they need, which is a critical component of basic health care for women. Without contraception, women have more unintended pregnancies and are less likely to get the prenatal care they require to carry a healthy pregnancy to term. Out-of-pocket expenses for birth control, which can range between $15 and $50 per month, burden a woman’s ability to access and use contraception consistently, especially if she is already managing a tight budget. Eliminating extra out-of-pocket costs would remove a major barrier to contraception access, allowing women to make their own personal decisions about whether or when to have children, regardless of the size of their pocketbooks.

The Department of Health and Human Services now needs to make the final decision. Let’s hope that the department will do the right thing and follow the evidence-based advice they asked for.

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