Women’s access to free preventive services such as contraception and testing for certain STDs has expanded considerably under the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), while men’s has not.
ACA requires new health plans, or those whose benefits have changed substantially, to provide four types of preventive care without co-payments or other cost-sharing tactics. Care covered includes services recommended by the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF); CDC-recommended immunizations; and preventive services and screenings for women and children that are recommended by the Health Resources and Services Administration.
Under the law, most health plans must cover all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods for women, including tubal ligation, when their new plan year begins this fall or next year. But ACA limits the requirement only to women’s services. “Particularly for older men who are interested in playing a role in pregnancy prevention through sterilization, there are not many low-cost services available, even in a large city,” noted David Bell, medical director of the Young Men’s Clinic at New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s Family Planning Clinic.
The law also requires free screening for several STDs in women but not men.
While annual HIV tests are covered for all sexually active women, free screenings are only recommended for men who are at higher risk, such as men who have sex with men. And based on USPSTF recommendations, all sexually active women under age 25 will have chlamydia screenings covered, as will women at risk for gonorrhea. But the task force said there is insufficient evidence to make those recommendations for men.
However, men’s sexual health will be addressed with the mandate that insurers cover the three-shot human papillomavirus services for young men. In addition to recommending the shots for young women to prevent cervical cancer, CDC recommends routine HPV vaccination for boys ages 11-12 and males ages 13-21 who have not been vaccinated.
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