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Victory for Women’s Health: HHS Announces that Birth Control Will Be Covered with No Co-Pays
Planned Parenthood Praises Commonsense Decision That Will Help Prevent Unintended Pregnancy
Planned Parenthood applauds the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) decision to 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. The HHS announcement follows a strong recommendation from the Institute of Medicine, an independent, nonpartisan medical body.
“Today is a historic victory for women’s health and women across the country,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “The decision by HHS is monumental for millions of women who have struggled with the cost of birth control and other essential health-care services such as cervical cancer and HIV screening.”
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
• breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling
• screening for gestational diabetes
This means that new insurance plans must offer these preventive services without additional out-of-pocket expenses or co-pays.
Eliminating co-pays for preventive health care will help reduce unintended pregnancies in the United States. 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.
Birth control is also used to control and manage a wide range of health problems. Among other things, it can protect women against debilitating symptoms of endometriosis and reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.
Most importantly, birth control allows women to plan and space their pregnancies, thus improving maternal, infant, and family health.
“There is no doubt that birth control is basic health care for women,” said Dr. Vanessa Cullins, vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Covering birth control without co-pays is one of the most important steps we can take to prevent unintended pregnancy and keep women and children healthy.”
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.
To ensure that women’s voices were part of this national conversation, Planned Parenthood launched Birth Control Matters, an awareness campaign that has helped demonstrate widespread support for covering birth control without co-pays.
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.
While this announcement is a victory for women’s health, Planned Parenthood is disappointed HHS is considering proposals that would limit this protection for some women. Planned Parenthood 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.
Birth control use is normative, 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.
In addition, local newspaper editorials from across the country have spoken out in support of covering birth control with no co-pays.
Below, please find a roundup of newspaper editorials in support of covering preventive health care, including birth control, with no co-pays:
New York Times editorial: Sound Medical Advice. “In an encouraging development for women’s health, an advisory panel of leading experts has recommended that all insurers be required to offer contraceptives as well as other preventive services free of charge under the new health care law. The Obama administration seems inclined to follow the advice, which is even better news”. (New York Times, July 20, 2011)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial: New Rules Guarantee Access to Women’s Health Programs. “The headlines focused on the recommendation that insurers be required to cover ‘the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods’ without requiring a copay. The institute's experts noted that nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and that 40 percent of them end in abortion. Thus, the panel said, more widespread use of contraception should result in fewer abortions.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 22, 2011)
Baltimore Sun editorial: A Cost-Effective Approach To Women's Health. “Why should any of these be available without co-pay? Because, as the panel reported, not only would these services greatly contribute to the health and well-being of women but because not providing them is so outrageously expensive to society and the health care system.” (Baltimore Sun, July 27, 2011)
Register-Guard (OR) editorial: A Reasonable Solution. “There are still too many unintended pregnancies in this country that end up creating unnecessary human suffering, even without considering the added cost to taxpayers. And there’s also the issue of basic fairness.” (Register Guard, July 26, 2011)
Star-Ledger (NJ) editorial: Cost Should Not Matter When Deciding Birth Control. “The pill is one of the most common contraceptives, used by more than 80 percent of American women. Because there isn’t a co-pay under the new health reform law for other standard preventative care, like pap smears, screenings for STDs or immunizations, there shouldn’t be one for oral contraceptives, either. They rival immunization in dollars saved for every dollar invested, medical experts say.” (Star-Ledger, July 25, 2011)
Houston Chronicle editorial: A Good Plan. “But even with such wide use of birth control, about half of all pregnancies are unplanned. This is why contraception is the most important of its recommendations, stressed the report. We're convinced. What took so long?” (Houston Chronicle, July 24, 2011)
The Record (NJ) editorial: Women’s Choices. “Talk about a great step forward. Just 50 years ago, the brand-new birth control pill was illegal in some states, and women were often cowed into lying to their doctors to get a prescription. Contraception has become more easily available in the years since, allowing women to plan their pregnancies and helping shrink the nation's abortion rate. But it is still too expensive for many, especially low-income and young women.” (The Record, July 21, 2011)
Akron Beacon Journal editorial: Act of Prevention. “At a time when there appears to be an aggressive effort in conservative legislatures to restrict funding and access to reproductive services, including abortion, the priority should be to increase women’s options to avoid unwanted pregnancies.” (Akron Beacon Journal, July 20, 2011)
*NOTE: Guttmacher’s definition of “highly effective method” includes: sterilization, the pill or another hormonal method, or the IUD.