Today, in a huge victory for women’s health, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that most employers will be required to cover contraception in their health plans, along with other preventive services, with no cost-sharing such as co-pays or deductibles. This means that after years of trying to get birth control covered to the same extent that health plans cover Viagra, our country will finally have nearly universal coverage of contraception.
Opponents of contraception had lobbied hard for a broad exemption that would have allowed any religiously-affiliated employer to opt out of providing such coverage. Fortunately, the Obama administration rejected that push and decided to maintain the narrow religious exemption that it initially proposed. Only houses of worship and other religious nonprofits that primarily employ and serve people of the same faith will be exempt. Religiously-affiliated employers who do not qualify for the exemption and are not currently offering contraceptive coverage may apply for transitional relief for a one-year period to give them time to determine how to comply with the rule.
It means that millions of women will no longer have to bear the costs of co-pays and deductibles on their contraceptive methods. My co-pay for my birth control was $35 dollars per prescription, and that came out to $140 spent on it per year. This is especially big news for low-income female workers, and middle-class women. This is money that can go to other priorities instead.
However, I do have to caution that private insurers might try to increase premium prices as a result, and can still do gender discrimination through these premium increases until January 1st , 2014. It remains to be seen whether overall fiscal positive impact upon women might not be as large as stated above. With that said, this is good news for women's reproductive health, and we still have a very long way to go when it comes to reproductive rights, especially over the counter access of the morning after pill to women of all ages.