For Immediate Release
January 31, 2012

Washington, D.C. – The Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) commends the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) recent decision requiring insurance coverage for a range of women’s preventive health services, including birth control, at no cost.

“The new rule is a victory for millions of women who will now have access to contraception and other preventive health services and supplies, without expensive cost-sharing,” said Kathy Lim Ko, APIAHF president and CEO. “We commend HHS for recognizing the essential role these services play in promoting women’s health.”

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires new insurance plans to cover preventive health services, without cost-sharing, in the form of co-payments or deductibles. HHS charged the Institute of Medicine (IOM) with evaluating and making recommendations about which women’s preventive health services should be included under the preventive health services umbrella. In July 2011, the IOM released its report, “Clinical Preventive Services for Women: Closing the Gaps” which recommended the addition of eight preventive services for women to the list of covered services under the ACA. In August 2011, HHS published an interim final rule adopting all of the IOM’s recommendations, including the requirement to provide insurance coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptives, without cost-sharing. On January 20th, 2012, HHS announced it will finalize these requirements.

“Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women experience a number of health and health care related disparities,” said Priscilla Huang, APIAHF policy director. “Cost is often a barrier to accessing preventive health care, resulting in delayed or inconsistent care. For example, Asian American women have lower utilization rates for contraceptives – in part due to cost. Expanding insurance coverage for contraceptives and other women’s preventive health services – and removing the cost barrier – will go a long way to addressing some of these disparities.”

The final rule will require new insurance plans to cover preventive health services, at no cost to the insured, including: counseling on sexually transmitted infections, counseling and screening for HIV for all sexually active women, HPV testing for women 30 years and older, contraceptive methods and counseling to prevent unintended pregnancies, lactation counseling and equipment, screening and counseling to detect domestic and interpersonal violence, and an annual well-woman visit. Most new insurance plans must comply with these requirements by August 2012, while certain religious-affiliated employers will have until August 2013 to comply.

The Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum influences policy, mobilizes communities, and strengthens programs and organizations to improve the health of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.