The Obama administration announced Monday that private health insurers must pay for an assortment of women's health screenings, counseling and birth control.
The benefits will begin on Jan 1, 2013 and will be offered "without cost-sharing" (no co-pay, co-insurance or deductibles).
The administration's plan is to encourage women to seek medical service without financial burden and to prevent health problems.
Some of the other benefits being offered are: screening for gestational diabetes, breastfeeding support with supplies, and sexually transmitted disease screenings and counseling.
The plan will also cover the controversial morning-after pill which the Food and Drug Administration classifies as a birth control, but is seen by conservative groups as an abortion drug. However, drugs that induce abortions will not be covered by the plan.
Last week a warning had been given by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, about mandating contraceptives. "As a scientific matter, it is important to recall that you are considering 'preventive' services, and pregnancy is not a disease to be treated. Most importantly, these mandates are an affront to the constitutionally guaranteed rights to free exercise of religion and personal conscience," Hatch wrote.
The cost-free screenings may not be completely without cost, as insurance premiums are likely to increase when the order takes effect.
Consumers are asked to check eligibility with their health insurances administrators to confirm coverage as some insurance plans may opt to begin benefits before the beginning of 2013.