Francisco Garcia, who directs the UA’s Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, is one of 16 members of the Institute of Medicine panel that is advising the Obama Administration about coverage of women’s health services under the new federal health-care law. He is the only member from Arizona. The panel is chaired by Dr. Linda Rosenstock, dean of the School of Public Health at UCLA. The Institute of Medicine is the nonprofit, nongovernment health arm of the National Academy of Sciences.
The panel’s report last week included eight key recommendations for no-cost health services that insurers should provide for women under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the new federal health law. Dr. Garcia was a central figure behind the controversial recommendation that the federal government require insurers to cover women’s contraception for free. Unplanned pregnancies can have a vast and detrimental health consequences, Garcia said. Women with unplanned pregnancies are more likely to receive late prenatal care or none, which then has a consequence for both the mother and the baby. Women with unplanned pregnancies are also more likely to use tobacco and alcohol and experience domestic violence , and their babies are more likely to have problems with having a low birth weight. “The important part is that, fundamentally, the health of women is a critical determinant of the health of our communities in general,” Garcia said. I think that we as Americans kind of under-appreciates that.”
Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services Secretary, will issue a set of regulations based on the recommendations. The administration is expected to act on the recommendations on the next couple of weeks.
Besides birth-control, the report titled” Clinical Preventive Services for Women:Closing the Gaps,” also recommended that insurers have to cover:
– Screening for gestational diabetes in pregnant women
– DNA testing for the human papillomavirus
– Annual counseling on sexually transmitted diseases for sexually active women
-Annual counseling and screening for HIV
-comprehensive lactation support and counseling, including the cost of renting breast-feeding equipment
-Screening and counseling for domestic violence
-Annual preventive-care visits
The panel said small charges like co-payments could be a deterrent, which is why insurers should cover them completely. Garcia stressed that all the recommendations were made with the aim of achieving better overall health for all Americans.