Health Care Reform Might Require Coverage Of Birth Control

For the past three years, I have not taken any birth control pills and instead solely relied on condoms for contraception. These past few years, I have been a full-time freelancer without health insurance and I have prioritized paying for my anti-depressant prescription — anywhere from $100 to $120 bucks a month, depending on the pharmacy — over BC.

But if the Obama administration gets its way after a thorough review from health experts, the costs of contraceptives and other family planning services will be covered by insurers under health care reform. Contraceptives would be considered “preventative services” because they prevent unwanted pregnancies and a host of other health issues that come along with the stork’s surprises. Wouldn’t that be the jam?

Don’t get too excited yet, though: some “family” organizations are already whining that pregnancy is “not a disease” and birth control should not be considered a preventative service.Maybe you’re lucky and your gyno gives you tons of “free samples” of birth control pills to keep your baby-makin’ at bay. But most of us either pay for our contraceptives with a co-pay or empty our wallets to pay for birth control out of pocket. The prices of birth control can vary as much as the various birth control options (Depo Provera shot, the patch, diaphraghm, and so on). Like me, a lot of people either use condoms, the second-cheapest form of birth control (abstinence being the first!), as their only contraceptive. However, we know that the male condom is not 100% effective. (According to Planned Parenthood, each year two out of 100 women will become pregnant using condoms if they always use condoms correctly and 15 out of 100 women will become pregnant if they don’t always use them correctly.) Condoms break. And if you are sexually assaulted, then let’s hope you live near a pharmacist who will sell you the morning-after pill without a lecture that you’re killing teh babiez.

Medical organizations like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Institute of Medicine, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the American Academy of Pediatrics acknowledge that if insurers covered contraceptives, it would be beneficial not only to women’s health and well-being but to that of their babies and children. In a 10-year-plan to improve America’s health detailed last month by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, she said “increas[ing] the proportion of health insurance plans that cover contraceptive supplies and services” was a top goal.

But some religious organizations are less than enthused. A spokeswoman for the bishops’ Pro-Life Secretariat told The New York Times, “Pregnancy is not a disease to be prevented. So birth control is not preventative care and should not be mandated.” And the director for the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council told the Times, “The government should focus on services that prevent disease. Fertility and babies are not disease. Fertility occurs in healthy women.” All this despite the fact that Dr. Hal C. Lawrence III, vice president of OCOG, said contraceptives absolutely fit the definition of a preventative health service.

Some of us would like it if lawmakers could just say “insurers will cover contraceptives — deal with it!” But the Obama administration is going about this through the proper channels. A panel of “outside experts,” according to the Times, is going to identify which preventative services are most needed by women and those observations will no doubt shape how the government proceeds. A list of “comprehensive guidelines” is due by August 1 of this year.

I, for one, fully expect the Obama administration and its supporters in Congress to try to get health care reform to include contraceptive coverage by insurers. But I expect religious groups and some politicians will fight it tooth and nail. Tooth and nail, I promise you. And it will be incumbent on all of us to make our voices heard on how we truly feel. Go look up your elected representatives’ emails and phone numbers now, dear readers, because this is going to be nothing short of a street fight.

[NY Times]
[Planned Parenthood: Condoms]