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