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Letter: Birth Control Should Not Have Co-Pays

The independent, nonpartisan Institute of Medicine (IOM) comprised of health care professionals recommended that prescription birth control be included as a preventive service under the federal health care reform law. If adopted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), new insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act will be required to cover FDA-approved contraceptive methods without charging co-pays or other out-of-pocket fees. This could result in the elimination of one of the biggest obstacles to effective family planning for millions of American women. HHS is expected to make a final decision on the IOM’s recommendation in August.

Planned Parenthood hears from women how difficult it is to find affordable health insurance or to pay for basic health care. This new recommendation would significantly improve the lives of millions of women who have struggled to pay for birth control. Approximately 98 percent of American women rely on birth control at some time, yet high costs can prevent consistent use, even for those with health insurance. Ranging from $15 to $50 per month for birth control pills to several hundred dollars for long-lasting methods like IUDs, contraceptive costs can be prohibitive for young women who are starting careers or working at low-paying jobs, and for low income women struggling to feed families.

Everybody gains from improved access to affordable birth control. A 2010 Hart Research survey found that more than a third of women voters, and over half of those between 18 and 34 years old, have used birth control inconsistently at some point in their life due to financial concerns. In fact, half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. In 2006, 56 percent of all pregnancies in New York were unintentional, and the cost of birth control is one of the central reasons. Full coverage of birth control without co-pays will help reduce and prevent unintended pregnancy, which is currently costing taxpayers more than $11 billion each year.

The IOM’s birth control recommendation is consistent with the views of American voters. According to the June Thomson Reuters-NPR Health poll, 77 percent of Americans believe that private medical insurance should provide birth control with no out-of-pocket costs, and 74 percent believe that government-sponsored plans should too.

When it comes to improving the health and financial well-being of Americans, birth control matters. The IOM’s recommendation for coverage of the full-range of FDA approved contraceptive methods without co-pays and other out-of-pocket fees is a significant opportunity for Americans to plan their families around their employment, financial, and social needs. I commend the IOM recommendation and look forward to HHS’s adoption.

JoAnn D. Smith
President & CEO
Planned Parenthood of Nassau County