Putting the Affordable into Contraceptive Coverage

Jan 7th, 2014 | By | Category: Reproductive Rights/Women's Rights

By Suzanne York, www.howmany.org

Full coverage for birth control, as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), kicked in as Americans rang in the new year.  Contraception is now available for free from health insurance plans under the ACA.

[photo credit: pahealthaccess.org]

A key provision of the ACA requires employers with 50 or more workers to provide medical insurance and coverage for contraceptives and pregnancy-related care. The companies must provide the coverage or pay a substantial financial penalty.

This is What Healthcare Should Do – Benefit People

A new study from the non-partisan Guttmacher Institute shows a sharp increase in privately-insured women obtaining contraceptives without any co-payment over the past year, after the contraceptive coverage guarantee went into wide effect.  The percent of women paying nothing for birth control grew from 15 percent in fall 2012 up to 40 percent in spring 2013.

According to Lawrence Finer, Guttmacher’s director of domestic research and lead author of the study, “Large numbers of women who couldn’t previously do so are now obtaining birth control without co-pays or deductibles, which allows them to more easily attain contraception’s well-documented health, social and economic benefits.”

The number of women benefitting from free contraception will increase, as more health insurance plans are required to comply with the new law.

The Court to Weigh In

Even as women and their families benefit from the contraceptive coverage guarantee, some may lose out due to a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

An order of Roman Catholic nuns is challenging the requirement that employers must provide health insurance coverage for birth control or face penalties under the new health care law. It is one of many challenges to the birth control requirement.

At the last moment, Judge Sotomayor temporarily blocked the Obama administration from forcing some religious-affiliated groups to provide health insurance coverage of birth control or face penalties as part of the Affordable Care Act. The New York Times editorial board wrote in response to the Sotomayor injunction that “the alleged threat to religious liberty is nonexistent and the stay should be lifted while litigation proceeds in the lower courts.”

The Supreme Court justices will decide if owners of for-profit companies can assert religious objections in order to deny their employees insurance coverage of contraceptive services in employer-sponsored health plans. The Guttmacher Institute stated that if the Court were to grant for-profit corporations such an exemption, its decision could potentially deny the benefits of contraceptive coverage to significant numbers of employees and their dependents.

Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, commented that “Today, 27 million women have access to birth control without a co-payment under the Affordable Care Act.”

And that is the direction that healthcare should go for American women wanting to be in charge of their own health.


Suzanne York is a senior writer with the Institute for Population Studies.

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