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VICTORY FOR WOMEN'S HEALTH: HHS ANNOUNCES THAT BIRTH CONTROL WILL BE COVERED WITH NO CO-PAYS
Planned Parenthood of New York City Praises Decision That Finally Removes Financial Barriers to Birth Control (8/1/11)
(New York, NY)—Planned Parenthood of New York City (PPNYC) 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 Joan Malin, President and CEO of PPNYC. “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.
Most importantly, birth control allows women to plan and space their pregnancies, thus improving maternal, infant, and family health.
“New York City has one of the highest unintended pregnancy rates in the nation,” said Malin. “Covering birth control without co-pays is one of the most important steps we can take to lowering this rate, and keeping women 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.
A majority of women use birth control. According to a 2011 survey by the Guttmacher Institute, among all women who have sex—and that’s across racial, ethnic and religious boundaries—99% had used contraception. Yet many have struggled with the cost. A 2010 survey by Hart Research found that more than a third of women voters had struggled with the cost of prescription birth control at some point in their lives, and, as a result, had used birth control inconsistently. For younger adult women, that number jumps up to more than half.
“While this announcement is a victory for women’s health, we’re disappointed HHS is considering proposals that would limit this protection for some women,” said Malin of the announcement that HHS will consider a conscience clause. “We 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.”
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.
“Too often we hear our patients tell us that they struggle with the cost of birth control, or have to choose between buying groceries or their monthly pill pack,” said Malin. “Now, thanks to this HHS decision, we have eliminated a major financial barrier that has prevented women from accessing the basic, reproductive health care they need.”
Since 1916, Planned Parenthood of New York City (PPNYC) has been an advocate for and provider of reproductive health services and education for New Yorkers. Serving nearly 50,000 clients annually, PPNYC’s health care centers in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island offer reproductive health services, including gynecological care, contraception, pregnancy testing, abortion, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and HIV testing and counseling. Through a threefold mission of clinical services, education, and advocacy, PPNYC brings better health and more fulfilling lives to each new generation of New Yorkers. As a voice for reproductive freedom, PPNYC supports legislation and policies to ensure that all New Yorkers—and, in fact, people around the world—will have access to the full range of reproductive health care services and information.