Planned Parenthood Mar Monte applauds the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to require that insurance companies cover key women’s preventive health services -- such as contraception, breast-feeding support, domestic violence counseling and screening for gestational diabetes and HIV-infection -- without co-pays or other out-of-pocket fees. The guidelines for insurers now include the full range of FDA-approved contraceptive methods as a women’s preventive health service, making it available without co-pays or cost sharing.
HHS has designated eight specific services as women’s preventive health care, including:
· contraceptive methods and counseling
· annual well-woman preventive visit
· screening for cervical cancer/HPV
· counseling for sexually transmitted infections
· counseling and screening for HIV
· screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence
· breast-feeding support, supplies, and counseling
· screening for gestational diabetes
This policy will go into affect August 2012 and means that new insurance plans must offer these preventive services without additional out-of-pocket expenses or co-pays.
This decision is historic, since contraceptives and other vital preventive health care services for women will no longer be treated as luxury care. This will be ground-breaking for the millions of women in California struggling with the cost of birth control and other essential health-care services, such as cervical cancer and HIV screening.
In California, the cost effectiveness of providing free and low-cost birth control is clear: The program has saved the state over $1.88 million in costs related to unintended pregnancies. The unintended pregnancy rate in the United States ranks among the highest in the developed world. In the U.S., nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended. Most importantly, birth control allows women to plan their pregnancies, thus improving maternal, infant, and family health.
Co-pays for birth control pills typically range between $15 and $50 per month. Other methods, such as IUDs, often cost several hundred dollars, even with health insurance. In CA, 4,656,970 women needed contraceptives in 2008, and more than half of those women -- 2,373,500 -- reported needing help paying for those contraceptives.
According to a recent Thomson Reuters-NPR Health poll, 77 percent of Americans believe that private medical insurance should provide no-cost birth control and 74 percent believe that government-sponsored plans should do the same.
Birth control use is the norm, even among religious women. According to a 2011 Guttmacher report, among all women who have had sex, 99 percent had used contraception. Among Catholic women, 98 percent who have had sex had used contraception. Sixty-eight percent of Catholic women and 74 percent of Evangelicals used a “highly effective method,” such as the pill or the IUD.
While this announcement is a victory for women’s health, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte is disappointed that HHS is considering proposals that would limit this protection for some women who receive services from providers that refuse to offer these preventive services. Planned Parenthood Mar Monte will continue to work hard to ensure that all women, regardless of their employer or insurer, have access to the health care they need, including affordable birth control.