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7 free health insurance benefits just for women Posted: August 23rd, 2011

By Barbara Marquand

Good news for women: Birth control, well visits and breastfeeding equipment and support will be among preventive care that health plans must cover 100 percent starting August 2012.

That means you'll pay no co-pay, deductible or co-insurance for the services.

The Affordable Care Act called for health plans to fully cover preventive care. Already this year a variety of services are free with health insurance, such as cholesterol and blood pressure screenings, well-child visits and routine vaccinations.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released guidelines for more preventive care that must be fully covered starting Aug. 1, 2012. This time the services are all geared to women. They are:

1. Birth control

FDA-approved birth control methods, including the pill and IUDs, and sterilization procedures, must be fully covered, as well as contraceptive education and counseling.

2. Well-woman visits

This will include an annual well-woman visit to get recommended preventive services and additional visits if providers and patients think they're necessary.

3. HPV DNA tests

HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer. Insured women age 30 or older will have access to free HPV DNA testing every three years, regardless of pap smear results.

4. Screening for gestational diabetes

The screening is for women 24 to 28 weeks pregnant and for those at high risk of developing gestational diabetes. Women who have gestational diabetes are at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life, and children of women with the condition are at higher risk of being overweight and insulin-resistant throughout childhood.

5. Sexually-transmitted infection counseling and HIV counseling

Only 28 percent of women ages 18 to 44 reported they had discussed sexually transmitted infections with their health care providers, despite the fact that such sessions have been shown to reduce risky behavior, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Annual counseling on HIV and other STIs will be free, as well as HIV tests for women at risk or who request them.

6. Breastfeeding support

New moms with health insurance plans will no longer have to pay for breast pumps and other nursing-related supplies, and they'll have access to lactation support and counseling from trained providers.

7. Domestic violence counseling

A quarter of American women report being targets of intimate partner violence sometime in their lives, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Insured women will have access to screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence.

There is one exception to the new rules. Religious groups can choose to sponsor health plans that do not include coverage for contraception if covering birth control is against their beliefs. Otherwise all new health plans must cover the preventive services free for plan years beginning Aug. 1 next year.