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Birth Control: We’ve Got You Covered

July 20, 2011

This post, and Lisa’s post “Flipping Out About Birth Control,” are part of the National Women’s Law Center’s Birth Control Blog Carnival.  Click over to check out more great stories and insights.

So the big news this week is the Institutes of Medicine’s (IOM) recommendations on women’s preventive health care – surprise, it’s all about reproductive health care, including birth control.  What’s so amazing about this is that the purpose of these recommendations is to list out exactly what preventive health services for women should be available without copays – you know, essentially, for free.  Make sure Secretary Kathleen Sebellius knows Americans want free birth control.  

The health care reform law (Affordable Care Act) requires insurance companies to not charge people copays for preventive care.  In other words, if I get a wellness check to make sure I’m preventing some possible future medical condition – maybe a vaccination, or an annual exam with Pap test and birth control discussion and prescription – the insurance that I already pay a premium for should cover the entire cost because it means paying a smaller cost up front to prevent having to pay more money to doctors and hospitals later on.  This week, the IOM formally recommended that all FDA-approved contraceptives should fall into this category, along with basic repro health services like HPV testing as part of cervical cancer screening for women over 30, counseling on sexually transmitted infections, counseling and screening for HIV, lactation counseling and equipment to promote breast feeding, culturally competent screening and counseling to detect and prevent intimate partner violence, and yearly well-woman preventive visits in which to obtain all this care from a licensed health care provider you trust.  These recommendations are based on scientific and medical evidence that proves these services keep women and families healthy.

All of this is good news – make basic, preventive women’s health care available without copays, and, in that post-2014 world where virtually all Americans have health insurance, the cost of care being prohibitive becomes a thing of the past. 

It’s also important because women spend so much more money on health care than men.  A huge chunk of that is paying for effective birth control.  Women can spend anywhere from $5,000 to $18,000 over the course of their reproductive years just on birth control copays.  I could buy a whole car with that much money! 

Now, we just need one thing to happen: Health and Human Services Secretary Sebellius needs to make sure all eight of these recommendations get written into the new regulations.  And frankly, much as I love NPR, the story I heard yesterday morning isn’t helping.  Hey media, let’s try NOT to emphasize divisions where they’re largely imaginary.  “The divisive politics of birth control” just doesn’t make sense – it’s birth control, 99% of sexually active American women use it.  It’s about time that insurance steps up and pays the full cost – it’ll save all of us a lot of money in the long run, not to mention, you know, that little thing of preventing unintended pregnancies.

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