August 1 is an exciting day for some of the millions of women who have struggled to pay for birth control and other women’s health care procedures and treatments. That’s because, under the Affordable Care Act, private insurers must begin offering critical preventative services like STI screening and counseling, annual visits, and contraception at no additional out-of-pocket fee for women, starting today. But the key word there is “some.”
While it’s estimated that this change to all new and renewing health care plans will help nearly 50 million of women gain affordable access to necessary care and medication, there are still plenty of individuals who won’t be benefitting at all from this change, and will still struggle with the sometimes exorbitant cost of preventative and sexual health care. Specifically, the uninsured, and those whose employers are planning lawsuits so they don’t have to cover contraception.
Despite the fact that a whopping 82% of Catholics believe that birth control is morally acceptable, there are still plenty of lawmakers and employers who are seeking to block this piece of the Affordable Care Act, because they believe that requiring insurers to pay for contraception is an infringement of their religious freedom. And while it was initially just specifically religious organizations who were exempted, more and more employers who aren’t technically religiously affiliated, but don’t want to cover birth control on moral principals (like, you know, Chick-fil-A) are trying to get in on that loophole, too.
As a result, there’s still a lot of murkiness as to who actually gets the no cost birth control that the Act sought to make available to all insured women. The Obama Administration has allowed specifically religious employers to abstain from this particular section of the new rules for a grace period of a year, while everyone tries to figure out the middle ground between potentially life-saving care–but that doesn’t mean there won’t be lawsuits filed in the next few months by other employers who don’t want to provide contraception.
As we’ve noted before, birth control–which has many uses other than just keeping “sluts” from getting pregnant, though it’s good for that, too–saves lives. As many as a quarter of a million lives per year. It reduces unplanned pregnancies (37% of pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned) which can be financially devastating, and allows families to plan growth at their own speed–not nature’s.
But it’s also expensive. For uninsured women or women whose employers don’t cover birth control, all of the cost of preventative care is out of pocket. At the most low-cost clinics (many of which also offer abortions and are, as a result, being closed down across the country), even just meeting with a provider to discuss contraception can be close to $100–and that doesn’t cover the cost of the drugs, which you have to take every month.
Solutions like the NuvaRing or the patch, which are both under patent and only made by one big medical company, can run upwards of $80 or more per month. And because each form of hormonal contraception is different and interacts with each woman in a different way, it’s not always as easy as finding a cheaper option.
Today’s implementation of no-cost birth control for women is awesome, and it’s going to help a lot of women. But we’re not done fighting for equal and affordable access yet. As long as insured women and the uninsured alike are still being denied fair coverage of these life-saving, critical medications and counseling visits, there’s still a long way to go.
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