By Debra Marcus
One of the biggest barriers to effective family planning may soon come tumbling down for millions of American women.
The Institute of Medicine, an independent, nonpartisan organization of health care professionals, this week recommended that contraception be covered as a preventive service under the federal health care reform law. If the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services follows the recommendation, new insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act will be required to cover the full range of FDA-approved contraceptive methods without charging co-pays or other out-of-pocket fees. HHS is expected to make a final decision on the IOM's recommendation in August.
At Planned Parenthood's health centers in Oneonta, Sidney, Walton, Norwich and Binghamton, we hear from women every day who are struggling to find affordable health insurance or to pay for basic health care. This new law would make a huge difference in the lives of millions of women who have struggled to pay for birth control. Some 99 percent of American women rely on birth control at some point in their lives, but high costs can make consistent use difficult _ even for those with health insurance.
Out-of-pocket costs typically range from $15 to $50 per month for birth control pills and can add up to several hundreds of dollars for IUDs and other longer-acting methods. These costs can be prohibitive for young women who are starting careers or working at low-paying jobs.
While women have the biggest stake in this issue, everyone would gain from improved access to affordable birth control. Half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. In New York State, 56 percent of pregnancies are unintended, and the cost of birth control is one of the reasons. In fact, according to a 2010 survey by Hart Research, more than a third of women voters _ and more than half of those between 18 and 34 years old _ have used birth control inconsistently because of financial concerns. Full coverage of birth control without co-pays would help reduce that figure and help prevent unintended pregnancy _ an issue that costs taxpayers more than $11 billion every year.
American voters understand this. According to a recent Thomson Reuters-NPR Health poll, 77 percent of Americans believe that private medical insurance should provide birth control with no out-of-pocket costs and 74 percent believe that government-sponsored plans should do the same.
Birth control matters when it comes to improving the health and financial well-being of American women, men and children. The IOM's recommendation for coverage of the full-range of FDA approved contraceptive methods without co-pays and other out-of-pocket fees is a significant step toward that goal.
Planned Parenthood of South Central New York applauds this important step toward a healthier nation.
Debra Marcus is the chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of South Central New York Inc., which serves Otsego, Delaware, Chenango and Broome counties.