HOUSTON Starting Wednesday, the Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to offer millions of women eight new health-care prevention services at no cost including a controversial contraception mandate.

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 of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center said.

The covered services include: annual well visits for women, screening for gestational diabetes, screening and counseling for domestic violence, contraception, breastfeeding counseling and supplies, HPV testing, counseling for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV screening and counseling.

And estimated 47 million women are currently enrolled in health plans that must cover the services without copays or deductibles.

Certain religious organizations, like churches and schools, are exempt from the requirements.

The contraception requirement, which includes access to morning-after pills, has been highly controversial.

To force women of religious views and values and certainly pro-life to subsidize, whether it s contraception or abortion-inducing drugs, it s wrong on many levels, Alice Stewart of Concerned Women for America said.

Still, most women won t get the free benefits immediately. The new regulations kick in only when they renew their current plans. And since a lot of employer-sponsored plans stick with calendar years, copays for contraceptives won t go away for many women until the start of 2012.

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