Governor Chet Culver signed a bill into law this morning that requires insurance companies to cover the cost of vaccines to treat human papilloma virus, or H-P-V. The sexually transmitted virus is known to cause as many as 70 percent of the cancers diagnosed in women’s reproductive systems.
Des Moines obstetrician-gynecologist, Linda Railsback, says the new law will make it easier for women to fight off H-P-V. Railsback says "In the future, the burden of the H-P-V disease, which includes genital warts and cervical cancer, and some cancers of the vagina and vulva, will be decreased — markedly decreased– by 70 to 80-percent, and in some women, absent.
Dr. Railsback says now, if a woman has a health-insurance policy that includes vaccines, the HPV vaccine must be covered. Railsback says it will not be an option of the insurance company to exclude this vaccine. "At this point, it’s reasonably expensive and it will just not be an option to exclude it," Railsback says.
A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa estimates as many as one-out-of-every-four women has H-P-V. On average, around 50 Iowa women die each year from some form of cancer in the reproductive system.
Some of Iowa’s major insurers already cover the vaccine. In 2006, the federal government approved the use of "Gardasil," the first vaccine to guard against four types of cervical cancer and 90 percent of genital warts cases. It has generated controversy, however, because the vaccine is most effective when administered to females between the ages of 13 and 26 — before they engage in sexual activity.
Critics argue it will encourage those young women to have sex after getting the shots. Lawmakers in at least 17 states have enacted laws which either mandate, fund or provide some level of public education about the vaccine.