Insurance companies are now required to provide women with birth control and other preventive health measures at no extra charge as part of the Affordable Care Act, the Department of Health and Human Services announced yesterday.

Under the new rule, women with health insurance will no longer need to pay a co-payment, co-insurance or a deductible for birth control or services including mammograms, cervical cancer screening and prenatal care.

The decision was based on an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report that HHS commissioned to determine which preventive services have the greatest impact on overall women’s health.

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“As a centerpiece of the ACA of 2010, the focus on preventive services is a profound shift from a reactive system that primarily responds to acute problems and urgent needs to one that helps foster optimal health and well-being,” the IOM Committee on Preventive Services for Women wrote.

Under the rule, new health plans will need to provide birth control and preventative services without cost sharing by Aug. 1, 2012.

This includes well-care visits, screening for gestational diabetes, HPV testing for women older than 30 years, counseling for sexually transmitted infections, HIV screening and counseling, counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence, contraception counseling and lactation counseling to promote breast-feeding.

“These historic guidelines are based on science and existing literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need,” HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a press release.

Older plans that already provide health insurance have been grandfathered in and will not be required to adhere to the IOM guidelines. Medicare patients are covered under the new rule, but those who are uninsured are not eligible.