Since last week, the Affordable Care Act--you may know it as Obamacare--offers women, including adolescents, preventive care benefits at no cost. Among the services new and non-grandfathered health care plans must provide free of charge:
Well-woman visits, including an annual physical, and followup visits if a woman's doctor orders them.
Contraception and contraceptive counseling. Women will no longer have to pay co-payments for any FDA-approved contraceptive method or sterilization procedure. Exception: litigation is ongoing about whether religious employers must offer certain contraceptives.
Gestational diabetes screening for women 24 to 28 weeks pregnant, and those at high risk for gestational diabetes.
HPV DNA testing every three years for women 30 or older, even if their PAP smears are clean.
Annual STI (sexually transmitted infections) counseling sessions for women who are sexually active.
HIV screening and counseling for women who are sexually active.
Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling by trained providers for pregnant women and new mothers.
Interpersonal and domestic violence screening and counseling.
The confusing part: though the law requiring that women be offered these services came into effect August 1, the services actually become available in the new year of each health plan. Women should check with their doctors or plan administrators for information about when they can access them.