Obama Administration Guarantees Near Universal Contraception Coverage
Women’s groups were outraged by a recent Obama administration decision to limit access to the Plan B morning after pill, but today they are smiling. After months of anticipation and debate, the Obama administration today announced a huge victory for women’s health — near universal, no-cost coverage of contraception.
Here’s the rundown.
- Most employers will be required to cover contraception in their health care plans
- No co-pays
- No cost-sharing
- Contraception will be covered to an even greater extent than Viagra, after years of the opposite being true
- Limited exemptions for houses of worship and other religious non-profits who largely employ people of the same faith
Jessica Arons, Director of the Women’s Health & Rights Program at the Center for American Progress, has more on why this decision is so important:
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.
Twenty-eight states already require employers, including most religiously affiliated institutions, to cover contraception in their health plans. The only change is that now they must cover the full cost.
Family planning results in better health outcomes for women and their children—a woman who has a planned pregnancy is more likely to be in better health when she gets pregnant and more likely to seek prenatal care, and children who are born at least two years apart are healthier. Family planning is also the most effective tool we have in reducing unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion.
An expanded religious exemption would have created an unreasonably large loophole that would have kept these benefits beyond the reach of millions of women. This decision honors the conscience of these women over that of the institutions that employ them and ensures that cost will no longer be a barrier to accessing basic and essential preventive health services.
Cecile Richards, President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of American, points out the practical economic consequences of this decision for millions of women:
Birth control is not just basic health care for women, it is an economic concern. This common sense decision means that millions of women, who would otherwise pay $15 to $50 a month, will have access to affordable birth control, helping them save hundreds of dollars each year.
It’s also very much worth noting that this tremendous victory is yet another success brought to millions of Americans thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
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