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Senators get behind women’s preventive health

MEDIA RELEASE

U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka joined 28 Senate Colleagues in urging U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to swiftly adopt new Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommendations that would expand the preventive health care screenings and care available to women with no additional copayments or deductibles.

“We write today to affirm our strong support for the recommendations made by the IOM. Further, we urge you to accept these recommendations in a timely manner in order to ensure our nation’s women are able to access these life-saving health care screenings and services as quickly as possible,” the Senators said in their letter.

If the IOM recommendations are adopted by HHS, women would be covered for an annual women’s health exam. Health plans would also be required to cover comprehensive women’s preventive care and screenings – such as gestational diabetes screenings, counseling/testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, breastfeeding support and services, and birth control – with no copayments.

“Access to preventive health care is essential for improving the health of our nation and bringing our health care costs back under control. If fully adopted, the IOM’s recommendations will not only improve the availability and accessibility of women’s health services, but they will also represent an important step toward a healthier and more fiscally responsible future,” the Senators concluded.

To view the IOM report, Clinical Preventive Services for Women: Closing the Gaps, visit:
www.iom.edu/Reports/2011/Clinical-Preventive-Services-for-Women-Closing-the-Gaps.aspx

The full text of the letter to Sebelius follows:

July 22, 2011
Dear Secretary Sebelius,

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires that qualified health plans provide benefits without cost-sharing for certain recommended preventive health care services.

Because gaps have historically existed in preventive service recommendations for women, bipartisan members of the Senate worked together to include the “Women’s Preventive Health Amendment,” which will ensure that health plans are required to cover preventive services specifically recommended for women’s health.

As you know, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) was charged with making evidence-based recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with respect to these women’s preventive health care services.

We write today to affirm our strong support for the recommendations made by the IOM. Further, we urge you to accept these recommendations in a timely manner in order to ensure our nation’s women are able to access these life-saving health care screenings and services as quickly as possible.

Providing preventive health care services such as gestational diabetes screening, HIV and sexually transmitted infection testing and counseling, and access to a full range of contraceptive methods has been shown to improve women’s health outcomes and reduce the overall cost of their health care.

Additionally, services such as lactation support and screening and counseling for domestic violence can improve the lives of children and families as well as women.

Access to preventive health care is essential for improving the health of our nation and bringing our health care costs back under control. If fully adopted, the IOM’s recommendations will not only improve the availability and accessibility of women’s health services, but they will also represent an important step toward a healthier and more fiscally responsible future.

Sincerely,

The letter was authored by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.)
and signed by Sens. Akaka, Al Franken (D-Minn.), Tom Harkin (D-Ia.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), John Kerry (D-Mass), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), Mark Udall (D-Colo), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)

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