Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Insurance Companies Now Required to Cover Contraception

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Insurance Companies Now Required to Cover Contraception

Article excerpt

MONTGOMERY | Insurance companies are required to begin covering contraception and some other women's health services with no co- payment. The change went into effect Wednesday via the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The services include wellness checkups such as pap smears, mammograms, screening for gestational diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases, family counseling, breastfeeding support and routine tests. Contraception is also covered, with exemptions for some religious employers.

"Being a woman in Alabama is getting easier, thanks to new protections in the Affordable Care Act," reads a prepared statement by Arise Citizens Policy Project released Wednesday.

"Insurance companies have been penalizing women who have been charged more for some services, pre-existing conditions, that have been barriers to coverage," Arise spokesman Jim Carnes said.

One major employer in Alabama, the state's public education segment, made those changes in 2010, said Retirement Systems of Alabama spokeswoman Lindy Beale.

"There are no co-pays or deductibles," she said. The estimated cost per year to provide coverage with no limit was

$4 million to $5 million a year, she said.

The State Employees Insurance Board, which provides insurance coverage to 135,000 current and retired state and some county and municipal employees, eventually will have to start offering the new covered services with no direct out-of-pocket cost.

SEIB Director William Ashmore said the SEIB plan is grandfathered in under the Affordable Care Act but will be required to offer the coverage by 2014 at the latest. Other existing health plans may be grandfathered in, depending on when the plans are renewed.

Ashmore said the cost will be about $6 million to $7 million to implement.

Wednesday was also the deadline for some insurance companies to rebate $4.2 million in medical insurance premiums to thousands of Alabama consumers. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies that do not spend at least 80 percent of their premiums on public and private medical insurance plans would owe ratepayers a rebate. …

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