New health care benefits go into effect

WASHINGTON - Under the health care reform law congress passed in 2010, all insurance policies will now be required to cover vital care that women need to stay healthy, and they will have to cover the care without charging women anything out of pocket.

The benefits include contraceptives, breast-feeding supplies, screening for sexually transmitted infections and counseling for domestic violence. They also include routine check-ups for breast and pelvic exams, pap tests and prenatal care.

Woman already enrolled in plans with co-pays or deductibles will be provided these free services at the start of their plan's next renewal date.

The Department of Health and Human Services estimates 47 million woman are currently enrolled in health plans that must offer the new benefits.

Not all insured women have access to the new services. Certain insurance plans that existed before the passage of health care reform may have "grandfathered" status and may be exempt from offering the benefits.

Women can call their employers to ask whether they are in "grandfathered" health insurance plans.

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