"Panel Supports Free Birth Control
WASHINGTON - An independent panel of doctors and health experts recommended Tuesday that health plans cover a broad range of contraceptives for women without copayments, setting the stage for another debate over the impact of the health care overhaul.
The law that President Obama signed last year requires new health plans to cover many preventive health services without copayments or deductibles for patients, a key provision that experts believe will encourage more Americans to get recommended immunizations, cancer screenings and other services.
But the law directed the Department of Health and Human Services to seek input from clinicians and other authorities about which additional services should be covered for women.
That prompted the report Tuesday from the Institute of Medicine, or IOM, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences that provides guidance to policymakers.
Among eight recommendations, the IOM panel urged coverage for "the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling."
With close to half of all pregnancies unplanned in the United States, many experts see easy access to contraception as critical to women's and babies' health."