Women may enjoy an expanded list of preventive services at no cost under the health law if proposed draft recommendations are adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) later this year. The Women’s Preventive Services Initiative committee recently overhauled and added to the guidelines for women’s preventive services covered under the Affordable Care Act with the hope of eliminating the ambiguity seen with current guidelines and offer expanded services with no cost share (copayments, coinsurance and deductibles).
Intended to provide clarity and increase overall compliance, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) draft recommendations include updates on: well women care, gestational diabetes screening, HPV DNA testing, HIV screening/counseling, STI counseling, contraceptive methods/counseling, breastfeeding support/supplies, and interpersonal and domestic violence screening. These preventive guidelines were initially created based on a solid foundation of scientific evidence showing the medical benefits these services would provide and plans were told the patient would no longer bear any cost sharing responsibility.
Delegates from multiple organizations who are dedicated to enhancing the overall health and well-being of women met to ensure that women are offered a comprehensive, no cost-sharing set of preventative services under the Affordable Care Act. The guidelines are being updated from 2011, based on recommendations from a Health and Human Services (HHS)-commissioned study by the IOM because of advancements in science and research, as well as the identification of gaps. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) was awarded a 5-year grant to manage the guideline review process and will see to it that updates are made at least every five years based on a new process they plan to implement.
This year, the review panel considered breast cancer screening guidelines and proposed the initial age for a mammogram be changed to 40, which is more than 10 years sooner than U.S. Preventive Services Task Force current recommendation of age 50. Another proposed redesign concerns the breast cancer screening follow up, and if additional testing (i.e. biopsies, imaging, etc.) is deemed necessary from the preventive appointment, it should likewise be covered. Contraception was concentrated upon but expanded to both sexual orientations where it was proposed males be allowed coverage of contraception methods, such as condoms and vasectomy.
The Women’s Preventive Services Initiative isn’t the only program designed to assist women with health care issues. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recently awarded $55.4 million for the Women’s Health Initiative’s continued coordination of a study that has fueled breakthroughs in cancers affecting women and saved tens of thousands of lives. Another group called Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need (RWV) works to establish universal access to health care to women with a specific focus on women who are low-income, immigrant, young, women of color, or a member of the LGBT community. The definitive objective is to improve women’s access to high-quality, affordable health care. The Women and Health Initiative (W&HI) at Harvard concentrates on enhancing women’s wellbeing through the improvement of interdisciplinary points of view and innovative solutions for challenges women may confront in the public health field. The W&HI concentrates heavily on research and translating that into effective policies and clinical practice.
Another place where women’s initiatives are found is within local hospitals, where the goal is to achieve a healthier community. These hospitals generally attempt to raise awareness, implement prevention programs, and develop resources that will assist the community. For example, often time education classes are offered in topics such as BLS certification, Diabetes Prevention, Fall Prevention for Seniors, Tobacco Relapse Prevention, and Substance Abuse Programs. The programs in these health systems are usually funded by grants that recognize unhealthy behaviors put a curve on chronic disease and overall life expectancy.
The development of recommendations for women’s preventive health care services are taken very seriously and committee members were requested from expert organizations with a proven track record of providing high quality preventive care. The Women’s Preventive Services Initiative solicited public comments on draft recommendations from September 2, 2016 to September 30, 2016 and the working group will submit final recommendations to the HRSA by December 1st, 2016. Guidelines would likely go into effect in 2018 if they are adopted by federal officials.