One year ago, one of Obamacare’s most popular provisions took effect — the rule requiring insurers to cover women’s preventative health services, like birth control and Pap smears, at no additional charge. Through this provision, Obamacare has helped prevent women from continuing to pay disproportionately more for their health care than men do, since women are no longer charged a co-pay for the wide range of preventative services they need.
The impact has already been huge. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 27 million women are currently benefiting from Obamacare’s no-cost services — coverage that now includes contraceptive care, HPV vaccinations, mammograms, STD screening, and domestic violence counseling. Some women’s plans may have already covered those things, but many didn’t before the health law required them to do so. Thanks to Obamacare, 41 percent of all workers got an expanded pool of affordable benefits through their employer-sponsored insurance.
“This is the big story of the Affordable Care Act — the steady, historic progress for women that doesn’t grab headlines,” Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, noted in a statement. “Starting a year ago, women of all walks of life began to get both birth control and important well-woman checkups at no cost for the first time.”
Before Obamacare’s birth control provision went into effect, the high cost of contraception was prohibitive for many women. In fact, research conducted in 2012 found that nearly half of young women said they hadn’t used their birth control as directed in order to cut down on costs. And extremely small numbers of women opted to use the most effective form of contraception — the intrauterine device, or IUD — because it could cost several hundred dollars out of pocket.
The benefits of ensuring that women have affordable access to contraceptive health care are well-documented. Studies have shown that removing the cost barriers to birth control allows women to take control over their reproductive health, ultimately preventing unintended pregnancies and lowering the number of abortions. Other research has found that contraception is “critical” for helping women achieve economic success, since family planning allows women to pursue financial goals like finishing a degree or getting a job. And just earlier this week, the Guttmacher Institute released new data showing that publicly-funded birth control actually saves the government billions of dollars by preventing unintended births.