08 July 2010

No-Cost Contraceptives a Possibility Under New Health Insurance Rules

Each year, 3 million unplanned pregnancies occur in the United States. Though there are any number of complicated reasons why women find themselves facing parenthood unexpectedly, one of them is quite simple: the cost of contraception.

With the roll out of new health-care mandates in the fall, however, an opportunity may arise to finally take the cost burden out of the picture for many women. The overhaul will force new insurers to provide a number of preventive care services to women at no cost -- and according to a recent Washington Post article, activists for reproductive justice are working to ensure that contraception becomes one of the no-cost services every insured woman qualifies for.

The article, which quotes spokespeople from the National Partnership for Women and Families and the National Women's Law Center -- both Ms. Foundation grantees -- notes that even the $20 -$50 co-payments currently required by many health plans that do cover contraception can often prove too much for young and low-income women. The goal, then, would be to remove cost barriers from access to birth control on the consumer side (as is done with "well-baby" visits for infants and young children, for example), which also protects the bottom lines of insurers and employers -- by helping prevent pregnancies that cost thousands of dollars to cover, versus the relative pennies contraceptives cost.

Predictably, religious and other conservative groups are opposing the measure, some on the basis that, "Fertility is not a disease to be cured." The final decision about whether contraception will make the grade as a covered service will be based on the recommendations of the Health Resources and Services Administration, which may take up to a year to come to a decision -- but from where we stand it's a no brainer: no woman should find herself facing an unwanted pregnancy because she can't afford birth control. The government has it within its power to make sure this is never the case; asking insurers to provide full coverage for contraception strikes us, quite simply, as the right -- and rational -- thing to do.

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