Several women's health services now free

New guidelines from health care reform law now in effect

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Does a portion of your paycheck every month go towards birth control costs? Not anymore.

Several preventative health services, including birth control, became free Wednesday for tens of millions of women.

The historic new guidelines are part of the Obama administration's controversial health care reform law. All new health insurance plans now have to provide eight preventive benefits for free.

One part of the law drawing attention is saying goodbye to paying a co-pay for birth control pills.

"With easier and free access to birth control, then every child that comes into this world would be a wanted child that can be provided for," said Danielle Payne.

Payne believes free contraceptive is crucial.

Since congress passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, insurance companies have been required to cover 14 services, including mammograms and colonoscopies free of charge, with no deductible and no co-pay.

The following additional services for women were added to the free-of-charge list Wednesday: contraception, breast feeding support, supplies and counseling, screening for HPV, HIV, gestational diabetes, sexually transmitted infection counseling, domestic violence counseling and annual well-woman exams.

Dr. Joan Macksey, an OBGYN at Memorial Hospital, said yearly exams for women are crucial. She thinks now that it's free, more women will keep up with their health.

"A lot of things that go on inside the pelvis are silent," Macksey said. "You can't see your cervix, but you need that pap smear to make sure you don't have cervical cancer, ovarian cancer. That's why they call it the silent killer, because you really don't have any symptoms."

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says because of cost, Americans use preventive services at about half of the recommended rate.

The department's secretary says the Affordable Health Care Act will help stop health problems before they start.

The free care, though, isn't welcome news to all women.

"I think it comes down to, is this act a privilege for all of us?" said Lisa Engel. "Are we entitled to this? Is it a right? Or is it a nice to have? Is it something that we like to do, but then we have to ask, you know, who's paying for this?"

For women who already have insurance plans that have co-pays or deductibles for the services that are now exempt, it will be free when their plan is renewable next.

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