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Big Win for Women, Family Planning and Contraception

By Madeline Holler |

family planning and contraception, contraceptive pill

Put your wallet away. Obama tells insurers all contraception offered at no cost.

The Obama administration issued new rules today that will require U.S. health insurance companies to offer all approved birth control at no cost to its customers, including no co-pay. Health insurers will also be required to offer preventative health care services to women.

The new rules, based on recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences and approved by the Department of Health and Human Services, recommend that all government-approved birth control be offered at no charge.

The administration hopes that by offering free family planning and contraception services, they’ll also be able to get more women to take advantage of preventative health services like mammograms, colonoscopies, blood pressure checks and childhood immunizations.

Included in the government-approved contraceptives that would be available are birth control pills, Plan B and ella pills (the so-called “morning after” pills) and also sterilization procedures.

Because of Plan B and contraception in general, there’s opposition to this huge win for women and families. The rules allow for organizations to opt out of the required offerings if they oppose them on religious grounds.

But if abortion is the grand-daddy of all sin, you’d think they’d climb right on board. Consider these findings[New York Times]:

In a report commissioned by the Obama administration, the academy’s Institute of Medicine said free contraceptive coverage was justified because nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States were unintended, and about 40 percent of unintended pregnancies ended in abortion. Thus, it said, greater use of contraception will reduce the rates of unintended pregnancy, teenage pregnancy and abortion.

Insurance companies are also worried about the cost of covering 100 percent of these procedures. But hey, think of the savings with all those fewer pregnancies and births!

There are a few things to look into before feeling like the job is done, however. These rules apply to health insurance companies, but are these services already available for women on Medicaid and in their state health insurance programs? Also, when it says the rules apply to all women in new plans, does that mean women who have had their health insurance plans for years will still have to pay? Also, what about uninsured women who don’t qualify for Medicaid or state health insurance plans? Finally, women who don’t have access to a healthcare provider who will cough up a prescription for birth control: will “out-of-network” providers also be fully covered?

Healthcare reform has been incredibly, incredibly slow in the U.S. And while the cynical side of me thinks someone’s going to come in and mess all of this up, the optimistic side of me is hopeful that women’s reproductive health and lives are being considered — on a government level! — important and normal.

Is this a game-changer for you and your family?

Photo: via flickr

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About Madeline Holler


Madeline Holler

Madeline Holler is a writer, journalist, and blogger. She has written for Babble since the site launched in 2006. Her writing has appeared in various other publications both online and in print, including Salon and True/Slant (now Forbes). A native of the Midwest, Madeline lives, writes, and parents in Southern California, where she's raising two daughters and a son. Read bio and latest posts → Read Madeline's latest posts →

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23 thoughts on “Big Win for Women, Family Planning and Contraception

  1. Gretchen Powers says:

    Nope. Not a game changer for us. We work and pay for our own insurance, and pay the co-pay for our birth control. So, I guess we’ll go live it up on the $20 every three months we’ll be saving? Unless, of course, the premiums go up by more than that—which, I’m sure they will. Love the gov telling business how to do business! How much help and government interference do people really need to behave like grown ups, I wonder?

  2. lam says:

    A lot, apparently.

  3. BlackOrchid says:

    You cannot wish away costs!

    These things still do have a cost; medications do not appear from thin air; providers do not work for free.

    The costs are all still there; it is now borne by “the collective.”

    I don’t see how this is something celebrate, at all.

  4. Gretchen Powers says:

    OK…I get the practical value of this, the philosophy behind it doesn’t sit well. I guess we shall see what the outcome will be over time.

  5. Kelly says:

    You all obviously haven’t taken a basic class in health economics. By removing cost barriers, you’ll have more women using contraceptives, which means you’ll lower the number of unwanted pregnancies in the US (which is widely acknowledged to be around HALF of all live-births!). Unwanted pregnancies cost insurance companies and individuals WAY MORE than the stupid co-payments that disproportionately affect the poorer among us. And you all are assuming that we’re simply talking about the pill. The most effective forms of birth control, like hormonal implants, sterilization, and IUDs, can run up into the hundreds of dollars, the costs of which deter so many people from even considering them as options.

    Government SHOULD get involved, especially when the health insurance megaindustry is gettin’ between ME and MY DOCTOR!

  6. latoyashuey says:

    Many existing laws and regulations apply specifically to pregnant women. Several provisions of the Affordable Care Act offer new benefits for expecting mothers. Search online for “Penny Health” if you need affordable insurance for yourself or your wife.

  7. Bunnytwenty says:

    “Government SHOULD get involved, especially when the health insurance megaindustry is gettin’ between ME and MY DOCTOR!”
    Hear, hear! I don’t get why people are so comfortable with health insurance institutions making all these choices for them, but get all freaked out when the government does as well. What’s the huge difference?

  8. michelle says:

    Thank you Bunnytwenty!! Why all the tears and sympathy for insurance companies??

    Madeline, re your questions about uninsured women, etc., the answer is simple: PLANNED PARENTHOOD. Oh, and GOVERNMENT FUNDING for PLANNED PARENTHOOD. Why this is controversial, I can’t understand.

  9. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    No one cares much about the health economics because they believe that some underserving poor woman is getting “something” on their dime. Never mind that they’ve been paying for someone else’s boner pill coverage for 10 years. Keep the boners strong, keep the women pregnant, restrict access to abortion, and maybe those skirts will stay home and dependent where they belong! Instant job creation for the men! At least the kids won’t be in daycare, eh?

  10. lam says:

    I’m fine absorbing some cost for all women to have easy access to contraceptives and health care.

  11. Carrie says:

    So does preventive services include prenatal visits? I’m about to leave group insurance for the uber scary individual market, which in FL DOES NOT INCLUDE MATERNITY!

  12. Amanda says:

    It always make me laugh a little when anyone thinks that something like this is “free”. It will just make our heath insurance premiums go up more, I’m sure.

  13. Madeline Holler says:

    Yes, Carrie, it’s supposed to cover prenatals and the tests for gestational diabetes, etc.
    Amanda, the premiums would have gone up without this as well. The premiums go up, never down, because there is not competition aka: a government-managed program that would give folks other options. And recent healthcare reform gave away the farm to private insurers, by requiring everyone to buy insurance from a private insurer. PS: record profits recently and predicted in the future for private insurance companies. As another commenter said, time to stop protecting insurance companies — they have won!

  14. LK says:

    Actually, Amanda, when you account for all the avoided pregnancies and births, it probably breaks about even, if not reduces the overall costs to the insurance companies. I don’t think we’ll see higher premiums. I’m all for this. I too can’t understand why people don’t mind insurance companies covering viagra, but get up in arms about those companies being required to cover birth control!!

  15. lam says:

    I thought this infographic comparing American healthcare costs to the rest of the world was useful:

  16. Ramirez says:

    “you’ll have more women using contraceptives, which means you’ll lower the number of unwanted pregnancies in the US (which is widely acknowledged to be around HALF of all live-births!). Unwanted pregnancies cost insurance companies and individuals WAY MORE than the stupid co-payments”

    The fact that a person is unexpected doesn”t mean that he or she shouldn’t exist, or that his or birth should be seen as a financial burden on us all.

  17. Ramirez says:

    That last phrase should read “his or HER birth” . . . typing while breastfeeding FAIL.

  18. christine says:

    oh for f***k’s sake, now the conservatives who are anti-choice are complaining because we might be reducing the number of abortions!

    and as to gretchen’s comment about people behaving like grown-ups, that’ll never happen. all people misbehave and act in regrettable ways throughout their lives, and the most common manner for adults to act out is sexual acting out. it has always been that way and always will.

  19. Bunnytwenty says:

    It’s funny how the same people who insist that motherhood is women’s natural role, and that women are naturally one way and men another, get all upset that women behave in a natural manner by, you know, having sex every now and then. (Infanticide is also natural – does anyone disagree with me that abortion is preferable, and that birth control is by far preferable to that?)

  20. joanie says:

    Not a game changer for me personally now that I’m grown with good health care and could afford to pay my copays. Would have been a huge relief when I was in my 20s and couldn’t afford to pay for my health care — and didn’t have a job with enough clout to have my employer pay it. I’m so thankful for Planned Parenthood, who provided me a reasonably affordable way to keep myself from getting pregnant.

  21. Voice Of Reason says:

    I never fail to be baffled by people who will argue until they’re blue in the face about a simple matter of common sense.
    LAM, that is a really interesting chart – thanks so much for the link.

  22. Red says:

    I have to wonder abotu people who think it’s perfectly acceptable for insurance to cover Viagra, a recreational drug, but NOT okay to provide birth control of all types for the sake of women’s health.

  23. CW says:

    Why should a diabetic who NEEDS insulin in order to stay alive have to continue paying his/her co-pay but a woman who VOLUNTARILY chooses to use contraception should get it 100% covered by her insurance? Pregnancy is not a disease.

    I bet I could go through the monthly budgets of these women who claim they are “too broke” to pay their co-pays and find some luxury to cut (cable/satellite, manicures, fancy cell phones, etc.)

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