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Free Birth Control? Planned Parenthood Wants to Be Sure We're Covered.

Free preventative services coverage kicks in on many health plans this coming September. Sounds great–but it begs a follow up question:

What’s preventative?

There’s not likely to be an easy answer to that question. Over at Politico, Sarah Kliff reports that Planned Parenthood is working to ensure that the answer encompasses not only preventing cancer and heart disease, but preventing pregnancy as well. In other words, another battle over women’s reproductive health is quietly gearing up for a fight this summer, and no matter who provides your insurance, it’s one that probably affects you directly. Next fall, your preferred method of birth control could be available to you without a co-pay. Or it might not be covered at all.

Birth control is covered under 90% of private insurance plans, but co-pays ranging from $10 to $50 a month still leave it out of reach for many. Medicaid also offers coverage that ranges from state to state. Opponents of contraception coverage are already lobbying the Health Resources and Services Administration, arguing that preventative care is about preventing cancer, not “the birth of new recipients of health care.” Pregnancy, the rubric goes, is a joy, not a medical condition.

If the HRSA buys that argument, birth control coverage might remain unchanged. Co-pays will remain high, as will the abortion rate in the United States (one of the highest in any developed country, and Laurie Rubiner of Planned Parenthood reminded Politico that lack of affordable access to birth control is one of the biggest reasons why). Or contraception coverage might begin to slip away–it wasn’t long ago that few insurers covered birth control at all, and if the government rules it out of the preventative category, some insurers might see an excuse to move birth control into the optional category.

All of that is unlikely–a worst-case scenario. But what will happen if birth control is excluded from coverage as preventative care is that we will, as a country, have missed an opportunity to extend the right to prevent unwanted pregnancies to everyone, regardless of her economic circumstances. To lobby for the inclusion of contraceptive services under “Affordable Care,” Planned Parenthood plans to rely on scientific and medical evidence–but personal stories about how women (ahem–constituents) value the Pill and other forms of birth control may matter as much or more as facts and numbers. To contribute to the effort, visit The Pill is Personal and add your story.

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