Gov't advisers: Cover birth control for free

July 19, 2011 - 1:44 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A panel of health experts is calling on the government to require that insurance companies cover birth control for free as preventive care for women under President Barack Obama's health overhaul.

The law requires coverage with no copayments for a broad set of preventive services, from blood pressure checks to cancer screenings. Whether to include birth control as prevention for women was so sensitive that the nonpartisan Institute of Medicine was asked to weigh in.

The IOM panel said Tuesday that all FDA-approved forms of birth control should be covered, part of a menu including an annual "well-woman" exam, counseling on sexually transmitted diseases, and comprehensive support for nursing mothers.

The Health and Human Services department will make the final decision. But first, a debate over social mores is likely.