Alison Swift Packard is a PPLM board member, an obstetrician/ gynecologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a faculty member at Harvard Medical School. We recently caught up with Dr. Packard to talk about the current landscape surrounding access to affordable birth control here in Massachusetts and nationwide.
You’re a health care provider and a dedicated supporter of PPLM. What’s your most important priority right now?
ASP: My passion is contraception. It’s the single greatest social determinant for women everywhere, especially teens. Access to birth control enables women to shape their own futures, while unintended pregnancies can derail lives and erode the health of our communities.
Describe what “access to contraception” means to the patients you see every day.
ASP: My patients want – and deserve – to see providers without having to wait weeks for appointments. They want complete, accurate information about their birth control options. And they want to be able to take advantage of the best methods without prohibitive copays or out-of-pocket costs.
How have patients reacted to efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and its guarantee of access to preventive health care, including birth control?
ASP: Since the November election, PPLM has seen an amazing surge in the number of women coming in for birth control. Specifically, PPLM has seen a 40% increase in visits for IUD insertions and other forms of long-acting, reversible contraception (LARC). These patients fear that access to free birth control will be abruptly rescinded. That would mean that patients choosing a LARC, which is one of the safest, most effective options available, would incur steep fees. Those choosing short term methods, like pills, could experience copays of up to $30 to $60 each month, a real financial burden for many.
What is PPLM doing to protect and improve access to contraception in Massachusetts?
ASP: PPLM and its political arm, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund (PPAF), are strongly advocating for our state lawmakers to pass a bill that would guarantee zero copay birth control, and other benefits, even if the federal ACA is repealed. It’s called An Act Relative to Advancing Contraceptive and Economic Security in our State, or the ACCESS bill, and it would require Massachusetts insurers to cover all FDA-approved forms of birth control without copays.
What’s the long-term impact of this kind of advocacy?
ASP: These issues are not going to go away. PPLM and PPAF know that Massachusetts has to step up and become a leader in the national fight to protect our reproductive rights, whatever national political climate prevails.
More than 55 million women — including 1.4 million women in Massachusetts — now have guaranteed access to affordable birth control thanks to the ACA’s no copay birth control benefit. The Trump administration plans to bring us back to a time when women across the country could be denied insurance coverage for birth control on a whim by their employer. That’s why Massachusetts needs the Contraceptive ACCESS bill! Visit ppaction.org/BirthControlMA for more information.