You may find yourself paying less for birth control—like, 100% less—if Congress adopts recommendations made by an independent, federally-commissioned health panel last week. The Institute of Medicine panel suggested that the government require health insurance companies to include an array of contraceptives (including implants and IUDs), annual HIV screenings, human papillomavirus (HPV) testing as part of cervical cancer screening for women over 30, and a yearly preventative care visit as part of the standard preventative care measures health plans must allow at no extra cost as part of President Barack Obama’s health-care law.
That means no co-payments, no deductibles to first meet, no nothing (well, you know, except for what you’re already paying for health-insurance coverage), for the full-range of FDA-approved contraceptive methods. “Medical experts say easier access could start a shift to more reliable forms of long-acting birth control,” AP reports.
I think that’s probably true: Part of the reason so many women use the Pill instead of other birth control methods has to do with lack-of-awareness, sure, but the Pill also happens to currently be one of cheapest methods—albeit, one of the easiest to muck up taking.
A decision by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is due around the beginning of next month and, if accepted, the requirements could take effect as early as next year.
Despite the panel’s non-partisan status, the recommendations will surely bring on the outrage from the usual suspects, like anti-contraceptive religious groups and socially conservative politicians. But short of repealing part of the health-care law, there’s little they can do, according to AP.
Almost half of all U.S. pregnancies last year were at least somewhat unplanned. When you consider the fact that an unplanned pregnancy is something affecting not just the mother but also, in many cases, a father, too—well, that is a whole lot of people, more people than are affected by syphilis or abdominal aortic aneurysm, which also fall under the free-preventative-care rubrick. Unintended pregnancy also increases the risk of babies being born preterm or at a low birth weight, both of which raise their chances of health and developmental problems.
While most of the media attention has been on the high-profile ‘Free Birth Control!’ element of the recs, it’s also seriously worth noting that women’s deaths from cervical cancer could be reduced by adding DNA testing for HPV to the Pap smears that are part of the current guidelines for women’s preventive services, according to the report concludes.
You can read the panel’s full recommendations on the Institute of Medicine website.