The Institute of Medicine (IOM), a leading medical advisory panel, recommended earlier this week that birth control and several other preventative healthcare services for women be covered for free by all insurers under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. If adopted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the policy could eliminate cost barriers that keep many American women from suing birth control consistently.
In addition to free birth control, the proposal would require health plans to cover:
- screening to detect domestic violence
- screening for H.I.V.
- counseling and equipment to promote breastfeeding, including the free rental of breast pumps (!)
- screening for gestational diabetes in pregnant women
- DNA testing for the human papillomavirus, as part of cervical cancer screening
- ANNUAL PREVENTATIVE CARE VISITS, including prenatal care and preconception care for women who want to make sure they’re healthy before they try to become pregnant (!!!).
In its report, The Institute of Medicine emphasized the importance of covering birth control costs, noting that nearly half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, and some 40 percent of those unintended pregnancies end in abortion. Making birth control affordable in this case, free for the insured would reduce the rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion, the panel said. It also noted the litany of ways unintended pregnancies take tolls on the health and well-being of mothers, their children and, ultimately, the health care system: Women with unintended pregnancies are more likely to receive delayed or no prenatal care and to smoke, consume alcohol, be depressed, and experience domestic violence during pregnancy,” the report said. “Unintended pregnancy also increases the risk of babies being born preterm or at a low birth weight, both of which raise their chances of health and developmental problems.”
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which launched the advocacy campaign Birth Control Matters in support of the proposal, hailed the recommendations. Millions of women, especially young women, struggle every day to afford prescription birth control, Richards said, adding that giving insured women access to prescription birth control without out-of-pocket expenses “would be a tremendous stride forward for women's health in this country.
A 2010 survey by Hart Research found that more than a third of female voters struggled with the cost of prescription birth control at some point in their lives, and as a result, had used birth control inconsistently. On average, a woman spends 30 years of her life trying to prevent pregnancy. A recent Thomson Reuters-NPR Health poll showed that 77 percent of Americans believe that private medical insurance should provide no-cost birth control and 74 percent believe that government-sponsored plans should do the same.
Co-pays for birth control pills typically range between $15 and $50 per month. Other methods, such as IUDs, often cost several hundred dollars, even with health insurance.
Under this proposal, women who are uninsured will still have to figure out a way to pay for birth control and all of the other health care services women need to protect their reproductive health. My prayer is that in the middle of all of this fighting over the national debt ceiling and deficits, we remember the most vulnerable among us: the uninsured women who can’t afford doctor visits or birth control and the babies who may suffer because of it.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.