• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Women’s Preventive Services: A Slippery Slope to Higher Health Care Costs

    Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) added new preventive care measures specific to women’s health to the long list of provisions that will drive up premiums under Obamacare. Not only will the new regulations infringe upon Americans’ freedom to choose a health plan in keeping with their values, as we explained here, but they serve as a precursor to more pricey regulations to come.

    HHS issued regulations last July on the preventive measures that insurers must cover with no cost-sharing, but as part of the new law, the agency was to review preventive services specific to women’s health and could include further guidelines, which were issued yesterday. Last week, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released its recommendation that the new regulations should include the full range of contraceptives, including sterilization procedures. Also to be covered with no cost-sharing were well-woman visits, screening for gestational diabetes, HPV DNA testing, STI counseling, HIV screening and counseling, breastfeeding support, and domestic violence screening.

    HHS advertised that the new guidelines would expand available services “at no additional cost” to women, but as the AP’s Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar writes, “Although the new women’s preventive services will be free of any additional charge to patients, somebody will have to pay. The cost will be spread among other people with health insurance, resulting in slightly higher premiums.”

    The relative ease with which HHS adopted all of the IOM’s recommendations—and their associated costs for insurers and ultimately, patients—does not bode well for the forthcoming regulations on federally defined “essential health benefits,” which will determine what benefits must be included for health plans to participate in the new exchanges. Health policy expert John Hoff explains:

    If the definition lists particular services that must be covered, it starts down a road of infinite complexity and overwhelming detail. If, for example, diagnostic services are included, will the definition list MRI scans as a required diagnostic procedure? Even if it does, the definition would be meaningless unless it goes on to specify under which conditions an MRI must be covered. Which symptoms require an MRI scan rather than a less-expensive x-ray? How long must the patient have experienced the symptoms?… It is impossible for HHS to define the circumstances for each and every treatment.

    Taking a more prescriptive approach will result in major headaches for providers and insurers to determine what is and isn’t covered under what circumstances and, even worse, will raise costs even further for patients. Experiences with state-mandated benefits in places like Maine have already proven that this is the case.

    Finally, allowing the government to mandate health benefits creates an avenue for special interest groups to lobby for certain services or products to be deemed “essential.” The women’s preventive services regulations are a prime example. As Heritage’s Chuck Donovan explains, Planned Parenthood and others lobbied the IOM to include the widest possible range of drugs and procedures in its recommendations, a position that was fully adopted in the final document. Though HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that the recommendations were “based on science,” the opinion of one member of the IOM board was the opposite:

    The view of this dissent is that the committee process for evaluation of the evidence lacked transparency and was largely subject to the preferences of the committee’s composition. Troublingly, the process tended to result in a mix of objective and subjective determinations filtered through a lens of advocacy.

    Indeed, the Council for Affordable Health Insurance warns in its annual survey, “For almost every health care product or service, there is someone who wants insurance to cover it so that those who sell the products and services get more business and those who use the products and services don’t have to pay out of pocket for them.”

    Obamacare will lead to higher premiums and fewer choices as a result of its overly prescriptive approach to mandated coverage. This, combined with the other factors contributing to rising premiums, will lead more young and healthy Americans to choose not to purchase health coverage—achieving the opposite effect of what was intended by the preventive care measures.

    Mandating health benefits is bad health policy, and not only that, it’s unnecessary. In a consumer-driven marketplace, insurers would offer the benefits that were attractive to patients, who would be able to choose from plans that met their health needs and did not threaten their values.


    Posted in Featured, Obamacare [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to Women’s Preventive Services: A Slippery Slope to Higher Health Care Costs

    1. Chris in N.Va. says:

      The fiscal "mandated health care" camel continues to nose its way further and further into our tent until all too soon all but the swishing tail (and we) will be left outside in the cold.

      Before long, eyebrow and bikini waxing, as well as Brazilian hair-straightening will be deemed medically essential preventative procedures as part of women's (psychic) well-person care.

      There truly is no end in sight to the all-encompassing and and ever-intrusive Freebies-For-Votes reach of the Nanny State crowd. Guard your wallets, all ye conservative patriots!

    2. cmm912 says:

      Did I miss the memo that stated that America was now a Communist country?!? First we have the NLRB (loaded with obama POLITICAL appointees) DICTATING where Boeing can or CAN NOT do business, and now we have the government DICTATING to PRIVATE INSURERS that they MUST GIVE PRODUCTS AWAY FOR FREE, BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT SAID SO! Government DICTATING/CONTROLLING business/industry/product distrubution IS COMMUNISM!

    3. Bobbie says:

      these are personal matters trusted in the private sector, where the government or their government tax paid doctors hands, drugs, etc. are not trusted. Preventive health care is the responsible intellect of the individual. There's plenty of free public information and word of mouth not funded by government.

      Free contraceptives, free abortions, free services, free ANYTHING doesn't make for responsible intellect now, does it? It dissolves the willingness to be responsible. Look at the mandates and regulations government abused their authority to implement in hospitals and clinics and insurances. With no benefit to the patient but needless reason to increase costs for EVERYONE!!!!!

      Let the insurance run their own business and government do their job by staying out of it. At least insurance keeps people personally accountable. Government creates another excuse to expense more programs.

      Ladies, don't be influenced by freebies from government. This overreach is deceptive at best when they force it on us without telling us anything about it now finding out it's not good to step into at any level. And once you step in, won't be easy to get out if there's a way!!!!!! Obamacare must be repealed and the free market will grow where freedom of choice and self reliance will once again, emerge.

      The government has medical teams! Which only serves a greater potential of miscommunication and the team members are only make work at only a rate of inefficiency…

      micromanaging health care is very dangerous and life threatening…

    4. Stirling says:

      Current mandates by HHS is just a step toward "Single Payer" system by bankrupting the current private health insurance system.

    5. Jan says:

      How about the government outlawing hiar coloring,false eyelashes, tatooing, along with multiple sex partners and eating out. That should give a girl a little extra money to pay for their behavior

    6. Anna Scott says:

      Does this president really believe that the government can mandate that insurance companies, privately owned entities, can be forced to give away free services? His entitement mentality knows no bounds! How can the costs for these things not get passed down in the form of higher premiums or force private insuriers out of business. Hey! I think that's the answer. Obama wants them to get out of the way of his single-payer dream world.

    7. ldavis says:

      Does this healthcare mandate include free transgender operations? It was determined by many not a few years ago that these surgeries were not covered under the "first do no harm" clause of medical ethics.

    8. mark o says:

      There are a few misconceptions here. First most of the mandates in the dreaded "Obamacare" were agreed to by the insurance companies (who wrote most of the law) because it keeps them between the patients and Dr's skimming 40% out of the middle increasing costs while delaying and reducing care. Most of the preventative "mandates" like physicals actually save money in the long run catching cancers and other illnesses in the early treatable stages. Does anyone here think a 50 cent condom or birth control pill costs more than giving birth and bringing an unwanted baby to age 16 or so? The main object to "Obamacare" is that the insurers must spend 80 of their take on health care instead of profits and payoffs for politicians that prolong the system. For profit health care and keeping overall healthcare costs down to consumers have two entirely different goals. The object of a business is to make the maximum profit by charging the maximum the market will allow with the least amount of goods and service costs. The object of health care is to get the most services for the least amount of costs. We pay up to 4 times the cost of other industrialized countries for health care because we have for profit health care. Although we pay the most we are rated 38th in health care. Insurers liked our old system where they increase deductibles and co pays 20% every year while reducing drug and other procedure coverage. This is the main reason health care costs have tripled in 15 years. Frankly insurers do nothing but add unnecessary costs and additional delays to the health care system.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.