Most employers will be required to cover the full cost of contraception and other preventative services in their health plans under the Affordable Care Act, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today. This means that women’s preventative health care like birth control will be available without co-pays or deductibles when Obama’s health care reform law goes into effect in August 1, 2012.
This past August, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that health insurers would be required to cover birth control without co-pays following the release of a report by the Institute of Medicine. That independent panel of doctors had cited coverage of preventative health care, such as STD screening and birth control, in its recommendation of best practices.
(And of course the talking boobs on Fox News wasted no time asking what Blue Cross/Blue Shield will be forced to cover next — manicures and pedicures?!?! Really. Someone said that. )
Women’s preventative health care has long been a point of contention in the health care reform debate. The medical community, as well as women’s rights activists, has acknowledged that preventative health care does not just mean screenings for STDs and breast cancer or HPV testing. Preventing pregnancy is another aspect of preventative health care
What employers will be exempt from coverage? According to Think Progress, “only houses of worship and other religious nonprofits that primarily employ and serve people of the same faith” will be exempt. Opponents of birth control — many of whom are religious — had hoped for any religiously-affiliated employer to be able to opt out of providing coverage. (Say, cafeteria workers and bus drivers at a Jesuit college, for example.) If a religiously-affiliated employer does not qualify for the exemption and still wants to deny coverage, they can apply for “transitional relief,” Think Progress explained, which gives them a one year grace period to figure out a plan for compliance.
In no time at all, we can expect the religious right — and far-right talking heads on Fox News — to start bitching about how it’s not their responsibility to “pay for” birth control for us whores. Bill O’Reilly already used his reasoning that “many women who get pregnant are blasted out of their minds when they have sex, [so] they’re not going to use birth control anyway” this past July. I eagerly anticipate what he will come up with next.
Instead, I wish they focused on the one area where we all have common ground, the one thing we can all agree on: less unwanted pregnancies will lead to fewer abortions.
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