New Wellness Benefits for Women Kick In Wednesday, Aug. 1 

Idaho's two largest insurance carriers have already made some changes.

In the shadow of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling upholding the majority of the Affordable Care Act, one of its lesser-known elements--designed to change the lives of most Americans--will launch Wednesday, Aug. 1.

A new mandate orders insurance carriers to cover women's preventive health services, with no co-pay or deductible expense, including wellness checks, screening for diabetes and sexually transmitted diseases and prescriptions for most contraception. While the ACA benefit only includes new plans purchased after Wednesday, Aug. 1, some insurance carriers have already implemented the change.

"Maybe they'll move quickly. Maybe they'll make the change all on their own. We don't know," said Kristen Glundberg-Prossor, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest. "But by 2014 it will cover everyone."

Blue Cross of Idaho is one of the companies that will be putting most of the changes into effect sooner than later.

"We'll be implementing most of the preventive health services [Aug. 1] for grandfathered customers," said Blue Cross spokesman Josh Jordan.

Jordan said making the change was a logical choice for Idaho's largest carrier.

"We felt it was something that our membership would want," he said. "It doesn't make sense to do it for a percentage of our customers and not the rest."

But most existing Blue Cross members won't see co-pays waived for birth control, at least not without upgrading their policies. Eliminating co-pays for contraceptives, along with breastfeeding support and supply services, will only be available for existing plans at an additional cost.

Meanwhile, Idaho's second-largest carrier, Regence Blue Shield, will implement the no co-pay change to new plans Wednesday, Aug. 1, and all other plans at renewal.

According to Glundberg-Prossor, the change goes far beyond birth control.

"It's such an advancement for women's health. And to be able to move forward now is such a stunning success for the health of women generally," she said. "We are beyond thrilled."

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