Women’s health changes made

On Aug. 1, 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) extended the guidelines for women’s preventive services under the new federal health care program to breastfeeding equipment, contraception, and screening for domestic violence, gestational diabetes, cervical cancer and HIV. Those areas will now be covered under many health care plans without additional costs to patients, though not until August 2012. Also covered will be preventive care visits for women, infants and children.

National news coverage of the change focused almost entirely on the birth control aspects of the HHS decision, prompting criticism from the right, though religious employers are exempt from the change. The Catholic News Service and Unification Church columnist Rebecca Hagelin were on the attack, with Hagelin writing in the Washington Times, “It smells a bit like eugenics, doesn’t it? … Perhaps most disconcerting, the HHS mandate makes only a small nod to conscience concerns. The regulations grant a limited religious exemption, which allows an opt-out only for organizations whose purpose is the ‘inculcation of religious values’ and which primarily serve and hire people of the same faith. Individuals and faith-based groups that serve broader purposes will have no choice but to sponsor or buy into insurance policies that include coverage for procedures that violate their religious beliefs.”

In Reno, Planned Parenthood spokesperson Alison Gaulden praised the changes, saying they mean “that new insurance plans must offer these preventive services without additional out-of-pocket expenses or co-pays.”