Aug. 1 comes and goes with little effect on most Americans' health plans
Published: August 3, 2012
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Although Aug. 1 was a key date in implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, it simply marked the first possible date when health plans could be required to cover eight new preventive services for women -- including all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives. But most Americans saw no change in their health insurance that day, because their plans renew on another date or are covered by a one-year "temporary enforcement safe harbor" or a "grandfathering" provision that delays changes. The requirement to provide contraceptives free of charge has prompted an outcry by Catholic leaders and others who object to the mandate on moral grounds and see it as a violation of their religious freedom. Catholic leaders do not oppose the other mandated preventive services for women, which include well-woman visits, breast-feeding support and counseling, and domestic violence screening and counseling. Those services "pose little or no medical risk themselves, and they help prevent or ameliorate identifiable conditions that would pose known risks to life and health in the future," Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for policy and communications at the bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, pointed out in 2011 to an Institute of Medicine panel charged with making recommendations to HHS. But the use of prescription contraceptives "actually increases a woman's risk of developing some of the very conditions that the 'preventive services' ... are designed to prevent, such as stroke, heart attacks and blood clots," she added. The contraceptive mandate does not apply, however, to plans that are "grandfathered" -- those that have remained substantially unchanged since March 23, 2010, in terms of benefits, co-pays, deductibles and employer contributions -- or those covered by what the U.S. bishops and others fee have said is a narrowly drawn religious exemption.
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