Free Birth Control!

Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius unveils important news for women

The Obama administration made a historic announcement for women today: Health-insurance companies are now required to cover prescription birth control. In a conference call with the press this afternoon, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced that under the Affordable Care Act—the health-insurance-reform legislation passed last spring—women will no longer be required to pay a copay or deductible for prescription birth control, including emergency contraception, or the morning-after pill. Insurers will also be required to cover HPV screenings, STD counseling, HIV screenings and counseling, and gestational-diabetes screenings for pregnant women.

The guidelines go into effect one year from today, on August 1, 2012, on all new insurance policies (in other words, you have to sign up for a new policy to get the deal, as it won't apply to existing policies). Secretary Sebelius noted that a reported one-half of women in the U.S. forgo preventive health care due to high costs. Now, she noted, "No woman in America has to choose between paying a grocery bill and paying the copay for preventive care that could save her life." Cheers to that!

For more on what health-care reform means for women, see Marie Claire Editor-at-Large Abigail Pesta's interview last fall with Secretary Sebelius here. For the full report on the guidelines announced today, click here. Of course, the news is not without controversy. For more on that, click .