Move aside, rhythm method! Stand back, expensive co-pays! A leading medical advisory panel recommended yesterday that birth control be classified as preventive medicine—ultimately meaning that all insurers could be required to cover contraceptives for women free of charge under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Because unintended pregnancies accounted for almost half of pregnancies in the U.S. in 2001, the panel from the non-partisan Institute of Medicine (IOM) urged that the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) consider adding the full range of FDA-approved contraceptive methods (including Plan B emergency contraception, but not mifepristone or RU 486, which is not considered a contraceptive option by the FDA), as well as patient education and counseling, to its comprehensive list of preventive services that insurance plans are required to cover under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The IOM says that this change of classification would lower the rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion and help women to space out their pregnancies. Unintended pregnancies are often associated with delayed or lack of prenatal care, continued smoking or alcohol consumption during pregnancy, and preterm or low birth weight babies—which can impact kids’ risk for health and developmental problems.
Plus: Your Complete Guide to Birth Control
Although birth control in particular has been in the news in the last day, in part because of immediate and vocal opposition from conservative groups, the panel actually gave the HHS a list of eight services for women it recommended qualifying as preventive care, including:
- contraception and counseling to prevent unintended pregnancies
- breastfeeding support and equipment (including breast pump rental fees)
- HIV counseling and screening
- counseling on sexually transmitted infections
- testing for human papillomavirus (HPV) as part of cervical cancer screening for women over 30
- annual well-woman preventive care visits
- screening and counseling to detect and prevent interpersonal and domestic violence
If the HHS approves of the services (which could happen as early as August 1), coverage could begin in January when new insurance plans take effect, although not every plan would be required to cover these services at that time because some are grandfathered.
Do you think insurance companies should have to pay for birth control?