The list of preventive services that insured patients are entitled to receive without paying anything out of pocket continues to grow.
In 2014, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended two new services and tweaked a handful of others that had previously been recommended. Under the health law, preventive care that receives an “A” or “B” recommendation by the independent panel of medical experts must be covered by health plans without charging consumers. Only grandfathered plans are exempt from the requirement.
The new recommended services are hepatitis B screening for adolescents and adults at high risk for infection, and low-dose aspirin for pregnant women at high risk for pre-eclampsia, a condition characterized by an abrupt increase in blood pressure that can seriously harm the woman and her baby.
In its hepatitis B screening recommendation, the task force said there was new evidence that antiviral treatments improved outcomes in people at high risk for the liver infection.
Although it’s not a big-ticket item from an insurance-cost perspective, the March of Dimes welcomes the task force recommendation regarding low-dose aspirin use, says Siobhan Dolan, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and a medical adviser to the March of Dimes.
“What’s exciting about this is that now we have something to offer women that’s a low-risk strategy,” Dolan says. Pre-eclampsia accounts for 15 percent of all preterm births.
The task force also issued a recommendation for gestational diabetes screening after 24 weeks in asymptomatic pregnant women. That service is already being offered at no cost by health plans following an Institute of Medicine study that identified gaps in coverage guidelines.
In its review of screening for gestational diabetes, the task force found sufficient evidence that it reduces the risk for complications such as pre-eclampsia, large-birth-weight babies, and shoulder dystocia, where the baby’s shoulders become stuck inside the mother’s body during delivery.
The task force recommendations become mandatory starting with the plan year that begins a year after they’re issued, so for many consumers, these provisions won’t take effect until 2016.
This column is produced through a collaboration between The Post and Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service that is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.