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As Two Deadlines Near, Concern Rises About HHS Adoption of IOM Recommendations on Preventive Care for Women

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Written by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson for RHRealityCheck.org. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

See all of our coverage of the IOM report and HHS guidelines here.

Will women's health insurance be held hostage to the debt ceiling fiasco?

On July 19th, an expert panel convened by the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) released a set of evidence-based recommendations on the range of basic preventive care services for women that should be covered by insurance plans without a co-pay under health reform.  The recommendations were requested by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to guide its final decision-making on these issues, and to put the imprimatur of peer-reviewed public health and medical science as well as evidence from clinical practice behind the final guidelines.

Services recommended by IOM for coverage without a co-pay include an annual well-woman visit as well as contraception, sterilization, gestational diabetes screenings, cervical cancer screenings, HIV/STI annual testing, domestic violence counseling, and breastfeeding support.  The Administration could have included these same services--including those on family planning services and contraceptive supplies--as part of its initial guidelines based on existing evidence. But the IOM process was seen by some as necessary not because these findings were not already self-evident to clinicians and public health experts, but because it is widely known that fanatical anti-choice groups and legislators would object to and fight against anything that improves the reproductive and sexual health of women or enables them to exercise their right to self-determination.

The problem always was that the IOM recommendations were scheduled to be delivered in late July 2011, and that HHS set a date of August 1, 2011 for issuing its final guildelines.  Those dates, we already knew, would fall squarely at the beginning of the 2012 Presidential campaign.  And, given that the Obama Administration has not exactly shown itself to be a strong voice on women's health and rights when there is any political cost involved, delaying this decision until now has always been a political gamble.

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