Adding another to a string of small victories as we begin this election year, the Obama Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services announced that employers will need to cover contraception in their health insurance plans, ensuring close to universal contraceptive coverage. Earlier, the Administration added birth control to the essential benefits package on the insurance exchanges, without a co-pay. So they have now covered the employer and individual markets, where a majority of people get their health insurance coverage. In addition, most states offer contraceptive coverage in their Medicaid plans, though not enough (“Of the 44 states responding to the survey,
30 states and DC always consider condoms a family planning service, as do 31 states and DC
for spermicide, and 30 states and DC for sponges”). So with this announcement, almost all Americans will have access to contraceptives, mostly free of charge. And it’s not just FDA-approved birth control that gets this treatment, but also counseling and screening for STDs, breastfeeding and other post-natal support, and an annual women’s preventive care visit. All of that will need to be part of employer health plans going forward.
Like with most of the family planning announcements over the past few years, there is a religious exemption added to this, but only churches and religious non-profits will be exempt, and other religiously-affiliated employers have just one year to transition to coverage that offers contraception.
Rep. Lois Capps, a leader on women’s health issues in the House, applauded the action. “Especially in tough economic times like we are experiencing now, women and their partners often have to choose between high contraceptive costs and paying the bills. Today’s announcement will go a long way in making sure that cost does not prohibit women from planning their pregnancies,” she said in a statement. The Administration engendered some bad feelings from women’s health advocates by restricting access to the morning-after pill. At least they don’t get the same cooties with family planning prior to sex, although it does highlight the absurdity of the morning-after objection.
Many health care plans cover Viagra. Now, at least, they will cover birth control pills to the same extent.