Free Birth Control? Insurers May Be Required to Offer It

Health reform laws could remove barriers to contraceptives

Free birth control for everyone! The administration’s new health care law may require insurance plans to offer contraceptives and other family planning services to its members free of charge. That means no co-pay, no deductible and no out-of-pocket expense for the office visit.

The reason: the law states that health insurers must provide preventive health services to its members at zero cost. For those who don’t happen to have their definition of preventive medicine handy, it means, “any measure taken to prevent diseases or injuries rather than curing them or treating their symptoms.”

The new regulations were issued last year to ensure that women, in particular, get necessary screenings, like mammograms and Pap smears, as well as prenatal care.

Since then, an independent panel of experts has been asked to determine just what services would fall into this category. Guidelines are expected to be released sometime around August 1.

That birth control may make it onto the list is not a revelation to administration officials or public health officials. Contraceptives prevent pregnancy and should therefore be covered under preventive care, they argue.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says the idea is to make sure birth control isn’t cost-prohibitive to those who are not prepared to raise a child. Today, half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended -- though who’s to say if cost or carelessness is to blame? A spate of happy accidents in Hollywood suggest it’s more likely the latter. Still, in providing everyone with equal access to family planning measures, the ACOG hopes such measures will improve the well-being of women and children by decreasing pregnancy complications, infant mortality and birth defects.

The Roman Catholic Church, meanwhile, has a very different interpretation of the ruling. Deirdre McQuade, spokesperson for the Pro-Life Secretariat of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told The New York Times, “Pregnancy is not a disease to be prevented, nor is fertility a pathological condition,”

While all this health care reform sounds great on paper, I am not naïve enough to believe free preventive care will make my health care cheaper. Health insurance companies will find ways to make sure their added expenses don’t decrease their profits. One way they will likely do that is by raising the price of their plans. Most people don’t have to worry about that too much -- it’s their employers who bear the brunt of high premiums. But I am self-employed, and already shell out close to $500 a month for a plan that is not nearly as comprehensive as those offered by big businesses. I would rather pay the occasional $50 for an extra office visit or $10 a month for prescription birth control than try to afford $100 or $200 more a month in premiums for everyone else’s free contraceptives.

Does the price of contraceptives keep you from practicing safe sex? Chime in below.


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