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Forty-seven million women just got healthier.

On August 1, preventive benefits for women, including breast and pelvic exams, HPV and HIV testing, gestational diabetes screenings and contraceptives became available, co-pay free, to all insured women.

“I think it’s great,” said Pauline Compton, an accountant from Bayside. “I think all women should be entitled to co-pay free health services, just like men. I don’t think there should be anything held back as far as health care goes. Preventive care is the best thing, and it should not be limited to anybody.”

These benefits became available to women through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), signed by President Barack Obama in March 2010. Before August 1, the reform included only mammograms for women over 40 and osteoporosis bone-mineral-density screenings for women over 60.

“We see the need for affordable health care every single day,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “For the one in five women who relies on Planned Parenthood at some point in her life, the preventive benefits that began rolling out [August 1] will help ease the struggle of deciding whether to pay for birth control or pay for textbooks, groceries or gas for the car.”

Under the ACA, women will no longer be required to pay more than men for health insurance and people with pre-existing conditions, including cancer, cannot be denied coverage.

The new reform also includes counseling for victims of domestic violence.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), women employed by certain religious organizations with health care sponsored by their employers are exempt from the coverage requirement.

Additional reporting by Adrienne Kurtz

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