DENVER (CBS4) – Millions of women are now being offered new health care services free of charge. It’s all part of the Affordable Care Act that went into effect on Wednesday that requires companies to give patients access to preventative services.
Contraception is one of eight preventive health care services for women mandated under the act. But it’s also one that some small business owners across the country and in Colorado are opposed to on religious grounds.
Religious organizations such as churches and schools are already challenging the contraception mandate. Now some businesses are trying to get out of it as well.
“We believe that no American should be forced to make a decision between their faith and paying crippling fines to the government,” Hercules Industries, Inc. Vice-President Andrew Newland said.
Hercules Industries is a heating and cooling equipment manufacturer in Denver.
Newland insists his religious beliefs are violated by the mandate that forces him to provide contraception coverage to his employees. The company received a preliminary injunction that exempts it from the mandate for now.
“We believe this gives us the freedom to continue to operate our business in accordance with our beliefs and our faith,” Newland said.
Some doctors counter that the mandate will prevent serious and even deadly conditions.
“A perfect example is sexually transmitted infection screenings. A lot of the time we can catch sexually-transmitted infections before they turn into a major health problem,” Dr. David Finke with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center said.
In addition to contraception the mandate also covers annual well visits for women, screening for gestational diabetes, counseling for domestic violence, breastfeeding supplies, HPV testing, counseling for sexually-transmitted diseases, and HIV screening and counseling.
An estimated 47 million women are on health plans that must cover those services without co-pays or deductibles.
While the mandate took effect Wednesday, most women won’t get free benefits until their insurance plan is renewed.
Under the health care law there are also free preventive services for men and children. They include flu shots and other immunizations, screenings for cancers, high blood pressure and cholesterol checks, and depression screening.