|The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced today (Jan. 20, 2012) that a forthcoming final rule will protect women's access to the birth control coverage benefit---birth control with no additional cost share. This announcement makes clear that HHS will not expand the current refusal provision in the women's preventive benefit under section 2713 of the Affordable Care Act, thus protecting access to affordable birth control for the majority of women in America.
This new benefit is in large part a completion of Planned Parenthood's mission----to insure that all women have equal access to affordable, accessible, safe, high quality and confidential methods of family planning, and that women are free from government intrusion into making these personal decisions that have great impact on women's lives, health and futures, said Crystal Brigman, a Springfield, Missouri grassroots organizer.
This decision protects access to affordable birth control for millions of women, including women who are employed by a religiously affiliated hospital, university, or other religiously affiliated organization that serves the broader public.
“Birth control is not just basic health care for women, it is an economic concern,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “This common sense decision means that millions of women, who would otherwise pay $15 to $50 a month, will have access to affordable birth control, helping them save hundreds of dollars each year.”
In July 2011, the respected, nonpartisan Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended birth control be covered as a women’s preventive service, deeming it fundamental to improving women’s health and the health of their families. Increased access to birth control has been linked to declines in maternal and infant mortality, as well as other health benefits and positive health outcomes. Among other things, birth control might protect women against debilitating symptoms of endometriosis and can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.
HHS in August 2011 adopted the IOM’s recommendation. The women’s preventive service benefit will take effect in August 2012 and requires that a range of preventive health care services be covered by insurance companies with no additional co-pays.
This birth control coverage benefit underscores the fact that birth control use is nearly universal in the United States, even among Catholic women, whose bishops oppose it. According to abortion rights advocate, the Guttmacher Institue, 99 percent of all sexually experienced women and 98 percent of sexually experienced Catholic women will have used birth control at some point in their lives. In fact, according to NPR, many religiously affiliated hospitals and universities currently provide birth control coverage to their employees.
The birth control coverage benefit is also one of the most popular provisions in the Affordable Care Act. According to a Hart Research poll, 71 percent of American voters, including 77 percent of Catholic women voters, support the benefit that health plans cover prescription birth control at no cost. And a May 2011 Thomson Reuters-NPR Health poll found that 77 percent of Americans believe that private medical insurance should provide no-cost birth control.
Planned Parenthood believes all women, regardless of their employer, should be able to access the birth control coverage benefit. That’s why Planned Parenthood opposes the current provision that allows religious employers like churches and church associations to deny this important and economically valuable benefit to their employees. Planned Parenthood also disagrees with adding the one year waiver provision to the final rule.
Planned Parenthood respects religious freedom and believes that neither government nor employers should intrude on individuals’ ability to practice their own religion or faith, including their personal decisions about health care.
"We applaud President Obama for doing the right thing, for keeping his promise to women in America and for his leadership in demanding that women in America have access to these vital services," Brigman said.