One of the biggest goals of the Affordable Care Act — aside from making coverage accessible to those who are currently shut out of the system now — was putting a bigger focus on wellness and preventive care by giving everyone better tools to keep themselves healthy.

That’s why the law made sure that all new insurance plans would cover preventive services for free — with no cost-sharing or co-pays.

What qualifies as a preventive service? Who makes that call? 

The Affordable Care Act let doctors answer this question — doctors from the national Institute of Medicine. The IOM recommended a full range of services they deemed to be essential preventive health benefits, including contraception and other services specifically for women. Those benefits included:

  • screening for gestational diabetes in pregnant women for all women between 24-28 weeks of gestation, and for women at risk of diabetes at the first pre-natal visit,
  • annual counseling and screening for HIV for sexually active women,
  • comprehensive lactation support and counseling,
  • costs of renting breastfeeding equipment,
  • screening and counseling for domestic violence for all women and adolescent girls,
  • and at least one well-woman preventive care visit annually for adult women.
Scientists have long documented the significant health benefits of contraceptives for women, which include helping treat polycystic ovarian disease, preventing ovarian cysts and ensuring a healthy menstrual cycle.

You can read the IOM’s full report on recommended services for women, here.

Other recommended preventive services, available under all new insurance plans (created on or after March 23, 2010 or older plans that lose their “grandfathered” status) with no cost-sharing under the Affordable Care Act include:

  • Blood pressure and cholesterol screening,
  • colon cancer screenings for adults over 50,
  • depression screening,
  • nutrition counseling for adults at risk for chronic diseases,
  • and annual vaccinations like flu shots.

The Affordable Care Act protects women by making sure that they don’t have to give up important preventive care benefits over expensive co-pays or deductibles, or because an insurance plan doesn’t include contraceptive services. On average, birth control costs $600/year, putting it out of reach for women whose employers don’t cover it.

It’s Getting Easier to Be a Woman!

Insurance companies have to cover women’s preventive care without extra charges. 

This includes:

Comprehensive contraceptive care. The full range of Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, including birth control pills, condoms and IUDs as well as sterilization procedures, patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.

Screening and counseling for intimate partner violence. Screening and counseling for women and adolescents about current and past violence and abuse so that providers can address health concerns about safety and other health problems that may be associated with interpersonal and domestic violence.

Screening for gestational diabetes. Screening pregnant women for gestational diabetes, a form of the disease which develops during pregnancy and occurs more often among women of color. Gestational diabetes increases a woman’s risk of developing other forms of the disease in the future as well as her child’s risk of being overweight and insulin resistant.

Breastfeeding counseling and equipment. Making trained breastfeeding counselors available to all women during pregnancy and after they give birth and making breastfeeding equipment available to those who want it.

Screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Counseling all sexually active women on STIs annually; screening all sexually active women for HIV infection annually; and adding a test for high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) – an infection that can cause cervical cancer — to conventional cervical cancer screening for women starting at age 30 and continuing every three years. These recommendations for counseling and screening are critical at time when more and more women are becoming infected by risk behaviors of their partners that the women may not know about.

Well-woman preventive care visits. Conducting at least one well-woman preventive care visit for adult women each year so that women can get the recommended preventive services.