“Today is a historic victory for women’s health and women across the country,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “The decision by HHS is monumental for millions of women who have struggled with the cost of birth control and other essential health-care services such as cervical cancer and HIV screening.”
HHS has designated eight specific services as women’s preventive health care, including:
• contraceptive methods and counseling
• annual well-woman preventive visit
• screening for cervical cancer/HPV
• counseling for sexually transmitted infections
• counseling and screening for HIV
• screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence
• breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling
• screening for gestational diabetes
This means that new insurance plans must offer these preventive services without additional out-of-pocket expenses or co-pays.
Eliminating co-pays for preventive health care will help reduce unintended pregnancies in the United States. The unintended pregnancy rate in the United States ranks among the highest in the developed world. In the U.S., nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended.
Birth control is also used to control and manage a wide range of health problems. Among other things, it can protect women against debilitating symptoms of endometriosis and reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.
Most importantly, birth control allows women to plan and space their pregnancies, thus improving maternal, infant, and family health.
“There is no doubt that birth control is basic health care for women,” said Dr. Vanessa Cullins, vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Covering birth control without co-pays is one of the most important steps we can take to prevent unintended pregnancy and keep women and children healthy.”
Co-pays for birth control pills typically range between $15 and $50 per month. Other methods, such as IUDs, often cost several hundred dollars, even with health insurance.
To ensure that women’s voices were part of this national conversation, Planned Parenthood launched Birth Control Matters, an awareness campaign that has helped demonstrate widespread support for covering birth control without co-pays.
According to a recent Thomson Reuters-NPR Health poll, 77 percent of Americans believe that private medical insurance should provide no-cost birth control and 74 percent believe that government-sponsored plans should do the same.
While this announcement is a victory for women’s health, Planned Parenthood is disappointed HHS is considering proposals that would limit this protection for some women. Planned Parenthood will continue to work hard to ensure that all women, regardless of their employer or insurer, have access to the health care they need, including affordable birth control.
Birth control use is normative, even among religious women. According to a 2011 Guttmacher report, among all women who have had sex, 99 percent had used contraception. Among Catholic women, 98 percent who have had sex had used contraception. Sixty-eight percent of Catholic women and 74 percent of Evangelicals used a “highly effective method*,” such as the pill or the IUD.
Read the recent New York Times editorial piece here.
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