Women benefit from part of health care act that took effect this week

Women will receive help with such issues as domestic violence and breast-feeding counseling, diabetes screening, and other health concerns as a result of a little-known provision of the Affordable Care Act that kicked in this week.

The new preventive services didn't begin Wednesday. Rather, the law mandates that when a health care plan year begins, companies must offer them.

Among them are well-woman visits; screening and counseling for domestic partner violence; screening for gestational diabetes; andscreening and counseling for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

“These new benefits mark the first time insurance companies must cover a full range of preventive health services for women,” said Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, who is trying to make women aware of them.

“Nationwide it is estimated that 47 million women will gain guaranteed access to these preventive health services, including 5.3 million women in California,” Capps said.

She said that all new health plans will be required to cover women’s preventive health services upon the beginning of their plan year, including an annual well-woman visit and contraceptive services without a co-payment or cost-sharing requirement.

The insurance coverage requirement will go into effect at the start of each new plan year, Capps said, a date which varies from insurance company to insurance company.

For example, she said, if an insurance plan year starts on Nov. 1, that is the date on which the beneficiary is able to access the preventive services without a co-payment.

She said many women delay or avoid filling prescriptions, skip recommended tests or treatments, and put off regular cancer screenings because they can’t afford it.