(By Mark McCutchan)
Thanks to a provision in the Affordable Care Act signed by President Obama last year, women may soon be able to obtain birth control cost-free. The law could require insurance companies to offer prescription contraceptives without charging a co-pay, whether that insurance is employer-provided or purchased on the individual marketplace, whether inside or outside of the new subsidized health insurance exchanges. Help make sure this happens by signing Planned Parenthood’s petition discussed below and by “Sharing” this post with family, friends, and colleagues.
An Institute of Medicine panel recommended Tuesday that the federal government require health insurance companies to cover contraception as one of eight recommended preventive services for women to be covered without copayments. Katherine Sebelius, head of the Department of Health and Human Services, is expected to issue the final coverage decision in August.
This is great news for all Americans, as the high cost of birth control has prevented some women from having the same control of their lives that men have always enjoyed. Nationally, one in three women has struggled with the high cost of prescription birth control. Generic birth control pills can be as cheap as $10 per month, but some women can’t tolerate the side effects of the additional hormones. An interuterine device (IUD) or other methods can cost upwards of $1000, making it unaffordable for many women.
The additional cost of these services will be picked up by health insurance companies, but it will be recovered by the savings in maternity and child care expenses for the children not born. Birth control costs for women under Medicaid were estimated at $1.9 billion in 2008, but $7 billion was saved from the reduction in births. Employers who pay for some portion of their employee’s health insurance policies should see a similar reduction in costs related to maternal and child care, as a result of the ACA provision.
Almost half of all pregnancies are unintended, and over 800,000 legal abortions are performed each year in the U.S. The fact that many of those abortions can be prevented through access to free birth control should have conservatives cheering about this rule. Such is not the case, however. First, conservatives routinely condemn everything accomplished under the Obama administration in a bid to win back the White House in 2012, and calling for the repeal or defunding of the entire Affordable Care Act is part of that strategy.
Secondly, anti-abortion groups like the Heritage Foundation and the National Abstinence Education say they are worried about teenage girls and young women having coverage under their parents’ health insurance plan. “People who are insured don’t want to pay for services they don’t need or to which they have moral objections,” said Chuck Donovan, senior researcher at the Heritage Foundation. “Parents want to have a say over what’s covered and what’s not for their children.”
Jeanne Monahan, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, also argues that some emergency contraceptives – “morning-after pills” – can cause very early abortions by preventing the implantation of fertilized eggs into a woman’s uterus.
“So those 7 to 10 days before a baby can implant, Plan B can prevent implantation and thereby cause the demise of that baby. So we’d be opposed to those drugs being included [in ACA coverage] because they act as abortifacients.” It is, of course, misleading wordplay to call a 0.1 mm blastocyst a “baby.” The National Institutes of Health and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have been clear that this is factually incorrect; pregnancy does not begin until a fertilized egg is implanted. Plan B is recommended for a number of reasons: in cases of rape or incest or when a condom breaks.
Please sign Planned Parenthood’s petition asking Kathleen Sebelius to act on the IOM’s recommendation that requires insurance plans to cover prescription birth control with no co-pays. There is also a follow-up action that encourages you to email your friends about this petition. You could also share the link which will be posted on the Winning Progressive Facebook page.