Contraceptive coverage for all, health experts say
Millions of women stand to gain free access to a broad menu of birth control methods, thanks to a recommendation issued Tuesday by health experts advising the government.
An Institute of Medicine (IOM) panel recommended that the government require health insurance companies to cover birth control for women as preventive care, without copayments. Contraception – along with such care as diabetes tests during pregnancy and screening for the virus that causes cervical cancer – was one of eight recommended preventive services for women. All but one member of the 16-person IOM panel supported the final recommendations.
“Unintended pregnancies carry health consequences for the mother – psychological, emotional and physical – and also consequences for the newborn,” said Dr. Linda Rosenstock, panel chairwoman and dean of public health at the University of California, Los Angeles. “The overwhelming evidence was strongly supportive of the health benefit” of contraception.
Catholic bishops and other religious and social conservatives say pregnancy is a healthy condition and the government should not require insurance coverage of drugs and other methods that prevent it.
The conservative Family Research Council said the recommendations could lead to a federal “mandate” for abortion coverage, since emergency contraceptives such as Plan B and Ella would be covered. But the Food and Drug Administration classifies those drugs as birth control, not abortion pills. Panel member Alina Salganicoff, women’s health policy director for the Kaiser Family Foundation, said abortion drugs are not included in the recommendations.
A final decision by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is expected around Aug. 1. Sebelius called the recommendations “historic,” saying they are based on science.
“We are one step closer to saying goodbye to an era when simply being a woman was treated as a pre-existing condition,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who sponsored the women’s health amendment.
Although the services will be free of any additional charge to patients, somebody has to pay. The cost is likely to be spread among other people with health insurance, resulting in slightly higher premiums.
It’s unclear how easy it will be to take advantage of the no-copay rule in the doctor’s office. Consider: A woman sees the doctor about pain in her hip – paying the required the copay – but during the same visit, receives her overdue screening for cervical cancer.
Being a woman makes me a “pre-existing condition”? That is just downright insulting to suggest that. Being a woman (or a man) means having to face facts and take personal responsibility for your actions.
Government mandates, no matter how good their intentions, usually result in more costs to consumers. And this will certainly add to the cost of health insurance.