Contraceptives and the Affordable Care Act

Pilule contraceptive

Something I haven’t been 100 percent clear on is whether health plans offered under the exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act will cover birth control. Sharon Lerner explains that it’s actually just not entirely clear:

Though health reform has already passed, the fight over what it really means is far from over. Especially when it comes to coverage of contraception, the devil is in the details. The law requires that preventive medications and measures be covered by insurers at no or low cost. But it doesn’t specify what qualifies as prevention. So will birth control pills be on the list? 79 percent of women think they should be, according to a new survey of commissioned by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. (Interestingly, fewer men—68 percent—see birth control pills as preventive health care.)

The chances seem good that the pill will make the cut when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issues its guidelines. (The law says this should happen by September, but don’t be surprised if it’s late.) Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius seems to be supportive of contraception. And the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology advocates that family planning should be a part of basic care.

Well count me as among the 68 percent of men who have the correct view of this. Note that despite the intense focus on Bart Stupak’s basically successful effort to restrict abortion coverage in Exchange plans, the combination of free contraceptives and an end to gender-differentiated insurance premiums means that on net the Affordable Care Act will be a boon to women. The social convention that birth control is the financial responsibility of the female member of a heterosexual couple has long been problematic, and classifying family planning as a preventive health service will in effect do away with it.