Good News on Women and Healthcare

Aug 7th, 2012 | By | Category: Family Planning and Women's Health

Good news on women and healthcare, on August 1st, the contraception coverage provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) took effect, which requires employers and insurers to offer “free” (without a co-pay) contraceptive coverage, along with access to other preventive health care services, to those women with health insurance policies.

Good news on women and healthcare

(Jodi Jacobson of RH Reality Check has an excellent article on why free birth control isn’t free, even for some women with insurance. She writes, “Let’s call the birth control benefit what it is: Women’s hard-earned insurance coverage.”)

Still, this is great news for women’s reproductive rights, as the ACA makes contraception coverage more affordable and improves access to health care for millions of women; in other words, empowers women to plan their lives. Access to family planning services helps women plan, time and space their pregnancies, which has health, social, economic, and even environmental benefits.

The cost of birth control is one reason low-income women are more than three times as likely to end up pregnant unintentionally as middle-class women.

Earlier this year Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times wrote a piece on the effect birth control has on poverty. He mentioned a 2009 study that looked at sexually active American women of modest means, ages 18 to 34, whose economic circumstances had deteriorated. Three-quarters said that they could not afford a baby then. Yet 30% had put off a gynecological or family-planning visit to save money. Of those using the pill, one-quarter said that they economized by not taking it every day.

According to Families USA, which just released a factsheet on Women and the Affordable Care Act, the following is now in effect, or will soon be:

  • Women can now visit an OB-GYN without a referral. Insurance companies can no longer require a woman to obtain prior approval before seeking obstetrical and gynecological care.

  • Pregnant women who have Medicaid now have more options for where they get their maternity care. They can choose to get care at a freestanding birth center, for example.

  • Women can now obtain preventive services with no co-pays or deductibles. This includes mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, and blood pressure screenings.

  • Starting in August, new health plans must cover additional preventive services for women with no co-pays or deductibles. These include: an annual well woman visit; birth control, including oral contraception and IUDs; HIV screening and counseling; and sexually transmitted infection counseling.

The Guttmacher Institute recently released an informative short video titled “Benefits of Contraceptive Use in the United States.” The purpose of the video is to show that “proper timing and spacing of births leads to healthier pregnancies; that contraception, when used consistently, is highly effective at preventing unintended pregnancy; and that cost can be a barrier to a woman using the contraceptive method that’s right for her.”

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or in this case, planned pregnancies, better health, and cost-effective birth control. It is commonly accepted that contraception leads to healthier lives for women and their families. Isn’t that something we all should want?

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

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