Will Contraception Be Considered a Preventive Service Under Health Care Reform?

Recently, the New York Times published an article discussing potential provisions to the new health care law that would require insurance companies to cover contraceptive and family planning services for women. The administration has gathered a team of experts that hope to release a definition of “preventative health services” with specific guidelines by August 1, 2011.

Currently the law states that insurers must cover “preventative health services” free of charge.  Women’s health advocates argue that contraceptives and family planning should be considered a preventive health service – after all, what’s more preventative than preventing pregnancy? However, anti-choice activists, ignoring the reality that 62% of American women use contraceptives during their lives and more would if they could afford them, have stated that pregnancy is “not a disease to be prevented.”

Congress left it to the administration to define preventative care, but the health care reform legislation included Senator Barbra Mikulski’s health care amendment which requires officials to pay attention to “unique health needs of women.” Senator Mikulski, a Democrat from Maryland, says that the amendment had intent of including family planning.

At the state level, PA Representative Chelsa Wagner, has reintroduced the Birth Control Insurance Bill. The bill, now HB 414, would require insurance plans in Pennsylvania to cover contraception drugs and devices like any other medicine.

Most women spend half their life avoiding unwanted pregnancy, while 49% of health insurance plans do not cover any form of contraceptives. And this has been an issue for a long time – nearly 15 years ago, the Institute of Medicine reported highlighted by the New York Times that the rising cost of contraceptives should be

reduced by increasing the proportion of all health insurance policies that cover contraceptive services and supplies, including both male and female sterilization, with no co-payments or other cost-sharing requirements.

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