Women rights advocates declared a victory for women and their reproductive rights this week when the Obama administration clarified that all insurers must cover a full range of birth control without a co-pay or other out-of-pocket expenses.
The guidance, which was issued by the Department of Labor and the US Department of Health and Human Services in a Q&A, declared that health insurance companies must offer at least one option for each of the 18 birth control methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This means that in addition to covering oral contraceptives like the birth control pill, insurers must cover birth control in the form of a patch, diaphragms and intrauterine devices.
“This coverage must also include clinical services, including patient education and counseling, needed for provision of the contraceptive method,” the department said on Monday.
More than a week before the department released the new guidance, on 29 April, the National Women’s Law Center released a study that looked at the birth control coverage offered in health insurance marketplaces in 15 states. The study found that insurance companies were still not providing coverage for all FDA-approved methods of birth control, limited their coverage to generic birth control and imposed out-of-pocket costs by not covering counseling or follow-up visits.
The law center has been collecting stories from women through its CoverHer hotline , where women who are still paying out of pocket for their birth control can call for help. According to Gretchen Borchelt, center’s vice-president for health and reproductive rights, the new guidance shows that the Obama administration won’t tolerate insurance companies breaking the law.
“It is now absolutely clear that all means all. All unique birth control methods for women must be covered,” Borchelt said on Monday . “Under the Affordable Care Act, women are no longer supposed to be at the mercy of insurance companies. It is past time for insurers to adhere to the law and stop telling women that their chosen method isn’t covered or that they must pay for it.”
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, also lauded the guidance :
This is a victory for women and the more than 30,000 Planned Parenthood supporters who spoke out to ensure all women, no matter what insurance they have, can access the full range of birth control methods without a copay or other barriers. We know that increased access to birth control has helped bring teen pregnancy rates to a 40-year low and we must continue to drive forward policies that build on this progress.
Now we want to hear from you. Are you one of the women who had to pay for contraceptives out of pocket? Did your insurer refuse to cover your contraceptive? Tell us in the comments below or fill out this form: