A panel of experts recommends that health plans fully cover birth control and other services to women under the federal health care law.
The Institute of Medicine's recommendations are intended to address a gap in women's health care — typically, women need to use more preventive care than men because of reproductive and gender-specific conditions. As a result, they pay higher out-of-pocket costs.
The report recommends full coverage for eight conditions including: contraception and counseling to prevent unintended pregnancies; lactation and equipment to promote breast feeding; and screening and counseling to detect domestic violence. The report also recommends screening for gestational diabetes and HIV. The recommendations do not include abortion.
Sarah Stoesz of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North and South Dakota called the recommendations very positive and a long overdue step for women's health care:
"Many women have problems accessing health care because the costs are simply too far out of reach for them," Stoesz said. "So this will go a long, long way in improving women's access and in improving women's health care generally."
There has been debate over whether the law should require coverage of contraception. The recommendation to include birth control is a big gain for organizations like Planned Parenthood, but may provoke opposition from conservative and religious groups.
Opponents of birth control include the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Information about the report can be found on the Institute of Medicine's website.