(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced sweeping new guidelines for women's health care that will change everything from distribution of birth control pills to administration of breast exams -- and will mean insured women will no longer pay anything out of their own pocket.
Beginning Aug. 1, 2012, all private insurance plans will be required to cover women's preventive services without a co-pay or deductible. The move is intended to help women have the chance to stop health problems before they start.
In one year's time there will be co-pay or deductible-free well-woman visits, screening for gestational diabetes, breast-feeding support, domestic violence screening and all FDA approved birth control methods -- including emergency contraception such as the morning-after pill.
The idea of insurance completely covering birth control has come under heavy fire from conservative groups and pundits, who argue that covering the morning-after pill is the equivalent to using federal dollars for abortion. However, the opposing argument is that the new law is about focusing on woman's health.
Many women won't see the benefits till January 2013. However, once the changes take effect, insurers will pick up the tab automatically, so women across the country won't have to sign up for anything.
As for who is picking up the extra cost, White House advisors say they don't believe the changes will impact premiums -- but ultimately, that decision will be made by insurance companies.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio