Health Law May Include Birth Control; 'Morning-After' Pill among Panel's Recommendations

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Byline: Paige Winfield Cunningham, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Free birth control, including the controversial morning-after pill, could soon be added to a list of services insurers must fully cover under President Obama's health care law.

A nonpartisan Institute of Medicine panel recommended Tuesday that contraception and a handful of other services related to women's health be considered preventative and must be covered by insurance companies without charging co-payments. Screening for the virus that causes cervical cancer and diabetes tests during pregnancy were among the nonbinding suggestions sent to the Department of Health and Human Services.

President Obama's 2009 health care overhaul law already requires insurers to provide standard preventative care for consumers at no extra charge. While HHS already has outlined most of the qualifying services, the women's health recommendations were considered so sensitive that the independent, nonpartisan institute was asked to look at the issue and report its findings.

Panel members identified services they consider necessary for the health of women, without taking cost into consideration.

They recommended including all FDA-approved emergency contraceptions, including Plan B, the so-called morning-after pill, but not RU-486, a more controversial pill that induces abortions.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is expected to announce by Aug. 1 which recommendations will be adopted.

But the recommendations could still face a fight. Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest provider of family planning and abortion services, praised the proposals, but anti-abortion groups were critical.

The conservative Family Research Council said including the morning-after pill in the insurance guidelines essentially would mandate coverage for abortion.

If HHS includes these mandates, the conscience rights of millions of Americans will be violated, Jeanne Monahan, the director of the council's Center for Human Dignity, said in a statement. …