"Confused About How The Hobby Lobby Decision Affects You? There’s A Helpline For That."
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to allow some for-profit companies to refuse to cover their employees’ birth control on religious grounds, women across the country are wondering how that ruling will affect their own insurance plans. That’s where Planned Parenthood comes in.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund — the political arm of the national women’s health organization — launched a new text helpline this week that will allow Americans to seek information about their birth control coverage. People can text “birth control” to 69866 to connect with a Planned Parenthood employee who will answer their questions about their insurance and help them get the affordable contraception they need.
Once someone makes contact with Planned Parenthood’s helpline, they’ll have the option to follow up with a staffer via email or phone. If they’re not comfortable initiating a conversation with their employer about contraception, Planned Parenthood will offer to call their boss and inquire about the birth control coverage at the company on their behalf.
According to Eric Ferrero, Planned Parenthood’s vice president for communications, people across the country have called, tweeted, and Facebook messaged the women’s health organization over the past week to ask about their access to birth control. It’s become clear that there’s an unmet need for easily accessible information in this area.
Several recent court rulings have complicated the issue of birth control coverage. In addition to the justices’ decision regarding Hobby Lobby, the Court also ordered the review of several other cases in which for-profit companies are seeking to withhold coverage for additional types of contraception. And right before the holiday weekend, the justices blocked the Obama administration from enforcing the contraception mandate at an evangelical college that opposes birth control.
“It’s been a busy week in terms of trying to figure out your birth control coverage,” Ferrero said in an interview with ThinkProgress. “Folks have a lot of questions about whether they still have coverage, whether their employer can now cut off their benefits, how to ask their employer whether they’ll still be covered — they’re looking for some help, frankly.”
Plus, there’s a lot that could change in the coming months. Eventually, the government may devise a potential workaround to allow workers at for-profit companies to access this coverage in spite of their employers’ objections. When it comes to religious non-profits, like Wheaton College, the Obama administration may essentially become a middle man between the organization and the insurance company. And since there are still dozens of pending court cases, it’s not yet clear which other for-profit companies may win the right to drop contraceptive coverage.
“The very real-world impact of these rulings on women around the country is still a question mark in many ways. It’s a complicated and confusing situation and it’s going to be for a while,” Ferrero said, noting that his organization will stay in contact with the Department of Health and Human Services to clarify what exactly employees should be doing. “But for the vast majority of women in this country, the birth control benefit remains in place. If they have not gotten a directive from their boss or from their HR department, they can continue to go to their pharmacy and pick up their birth control and pay zero dollars.”
Ferrero noted that the workers at Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, who are most immediately impacted by the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, can contact Planned Parenthood for information about the nearest health center, which provides birth control services on a sliding scale based on patients’ incomes.