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Government expands free preventive care to include FDA-approved birth control Posted: August 8th, 2011

By Maryalene LaPonsie

Two weeks after the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) issued its report on preventive care for women, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued guidelines to implement the panel's recommendations. In addition to providing free domestic violence and breastfeeding support services, the new regulation would mandate health insurance companies cover FDA-approved birth control methods free of charge.

The IOM recommendations were met with controversy by conservative groups which objected to the possibility tax dollars and health insurance premiums could be used to pay for birth control methods some find objectionable. FDA-approved birth control methods include "morning after" pills which may act as abortifacients.

In announcing the policy, the HHS stated a regulation would be implemented to allow religious institutions the choice of whether to include contraceptive coverage as part of the medical insurance they offer to their employees. However, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) says the regulation does not go far enough. In a statement issued by the conference, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo said, "Although this new rule gives the agency the discretion to authorize a 'religious' exemption, it is so narrow as to exclude most Catholic social service agencies and healthcare providers."

Meanwhile, others applauded the decision."This is yet another important reform under the Affordable Care Act which will make sure that women receive needed preventive services and lower the ultimate cost of care," California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said in a statement.