- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released its newest guidelines for women’s health in its Final Report to the U.S. Department of Health Resources & Services Administration.
- The guidelines represent a collaborative effort of provider groups and government agency partners to build consensus and update key preventive health recommendations for women, based on the most current medical research.
- The report notes improving utilization of preventive services is paramount, especially given ongoing disparities in the use of screening tools with certain patient populations: Individuals who represent racial and ethnic minorities, who are poor and those with lower health literacy.
A related report from the U.S. Preventive Task Force notes women’s health issues have repercussions beyond individual women, also affecting their children, parents, spouses, and even their communities. Because women’s preventive services are not only a medical issue, but a community health issue with socioeconomic impacts, clinical guidelines are only the beginning. Thus, in addition to providing specific recommendations on health screenings and preventive services, ACOG’s report emphasizes the importance of overcoming barriers to use of preventive care services.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has had a tremendous impact in this area, expanding access to such services for millions of women. According to a fact sheet by the Kaiser Family Foundation, approximately 55.6 million women have gained access to no-cost coverage for preventive services due to the ACA. Even with this success, preventive services are not always fully covered by insurance plans, and coverage still varies across payers.
In addition, political attacks on Planned Parenthood may block access to care for many women, especially those who are low-income. In Texas, legislators are moving to block millions of dollars in Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, which the group said would affect their ability to provide cancer screenings, birth control and HIV testing in the state. President-elect Donald Trump has also indicated he plans to defund the organization.
With the future of the ACA in question and politicians blocking access, women’s progress in obtaining access to the recommended preventive care may dwindle in 2017.