Victory: Birth Control Will Be Covered by Insurance Companies!

By Jacqueline Sun
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About a year ago I went to the pharmacy to pick up my regular prescription of birth control. A sweet older woman rung me up at the pharmacy counter and softly said, “that will be 55 dollars.” Wait, how could that be possible? Last month it had only been 5 dollars. I thought it must have been a mistake, wouldn’t my insurance cover this? No, the co-pay price of birth control that I had been taking for 2 years shot up to 55 dollars a month, seemingly overnight.

I’m a college student and an athlete, there was no way I could afford this. I felt as though I had lost control over my body and my future. I didn’t have many options. Thankfully today, for insured women, it won’t be a struggle anymore.

As of Monday August 1st, 2011 Health and Human Services adopted regulations that will eliminate co-pays for all FDA approved contraceptives, making health care far more affordable for women. In addition the recommendations would also cover STI counseling, HIV testing and counseling and a whole range of other reproductive healthcare benefits.

Insurance companies have exactly one year to comply with the new regulations, however it will take until 2014 for many people to receive coverage. In a news release by the Department of Health and Human Services, Secretary Kathleen Sebelious commented, “These historic guidelines are based on science and existing literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need.”

As interns at Feminist Majority Foundation we had the opportunity to participate in a Facebook Q&A Town Hall forum on Tuesday, July 26th with Senior Reproductive Health Policy Counsel for the National Partnership for Women’s Health, Marya Torrez. The discussion focused on the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding preventive care for women under the Affordable Care Act. The IOM’s recommendation played a large role in HHS approving this new regulation.

Eliminating co-pays does not mean “free” birth control, nor will it benefit uninsured women. But according to Torrez, the IOM recommendation will impact a huge group of women, especially those in the middle class.

This is an amazing victory we need to celebrate. Most college and university insurance plans currently cover contraception with a co-pay; with this new regulation by HHS, they will no longer have to pay these co-pay.  This is a huge breakthrough for college students because of the increased tuition costs and the current slate of ongoing attacks on Title X funding. These developments will increase access to contraception. The battle for reproductive justice is far from over but we are now one step closer to closing the gender gap and gaining reproductive equality.

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