In addition to the controversial contraceptive mandate, HHS says virtually all health plans must cover – at no charge -- the following items for sexually active women.
-- HIV screening and counseling: "Sexually-active women will have access to annual counseling on HIV," HHS said, noting that women are at increased risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.
-- Counseling on sexually transmitted infections: "Sexually-active women will have access to annual counseling on sexually transmitted infections," HHS said. "These sessions have been shown to reduce risky behavior in patients, yet only 28 percent of women aged 18-44 years reported that they had discussed STIs with a doctor or nurse."
-- HPV (human papillomavirus): This sexually transmitted disease is linked to cervical cancer. According to HHS, "Women who are 30 or older will have access to high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing every three years, regardless of Pap smear results."
-- Interpersonal and domestic violence screening: "Screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence should be provided for all adolescent and adult women," HHS says. "An estimated 25% of women in the United States report being targets of intimate partner violence during their lifetimes. Screening is effective in the early detection and effectiveness of interventions to increase the safety of abused women."
-- Contraceptive coverage: The HHS regulation requires nearly all health insurance plans to provide women with sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives, including emergency contraception, without any fees or co-pay. HHS flatly states, "These recommendations do not include abortifacient drugs."
But pro-life conservatives disagree, particularly in the case of the "morning-after" pill called "Ella."
As CNSNews.com previously reported, Ella can disrupt an established pregnancy: "It kills the placenta and it will kill the developing embryo, maybe not 100 percent of the time, but probably about 80 percent of the time,” Dr. Donna J. Harrison told CNSNews.com. Harrison is director of research and public policy for the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
The Catholic Church and religious freedom advocates say the HHS contraception mandate forces employers to choose between violating their consciences or dropping health care coverage for their employees.
In an attempt to accommodate the Catholic Church's objections, the Obama administration said contraception coverage must be offered to women directly by the employers’ insurance company, so religious employers will be not be involved.
But the move did not satisfy conservatives, who say mandatory contraceptive-sterilization-abortifacient coverage for their employees would still infringe on religious employers’ consciences.
White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked on Tuesday whether the contraception mandate will become "the new front in the war over the Affordable Care Act."
Carney responded: "Well, I would simply point you to the president’s policy and the position that he oversaw and had developed that ensures that these important preventive services are available to all women and that also respects religious liberty.
“As you know, no religious institution, no university has to provide contraceptive services or -- and the president’s position was very clearly that there needed to be that respect for religious liberty that created that balance while ensuring that women get these important preventive services. So we’re still implementing the rule, but I think the President sought and found the right position in terms of respecting religious liberty and making sure these services are provided.”
Carney said he would not comment on specific litigation. He repeated that the contraception mandate “makes sure that religious liberty is respected.”
(As stated above, under HHS rule-making, Obamacare now covers, at no charge, eight preventive health care services for women. In addition to the five mention above, the others are routine “well-women” checkups; gestational diabetes screening; and breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling.)
The new rules requiring coverage of these preventive services for women take effect at the next renewal date – on or after Aug. 1, 2012—for most health insurance plans.