Everybody’s been talking about contraception lately, and I have a few questions. Is this debate about religious freedom? Or is it about birth control being part of preventive care? Or is the debate about some people’s desire to turn back the clock…to a time when people didn’t have sex outside of marriage?
Currently 28 states require insurers that cover prescription drugs to also provide coverage of FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices.
Arizona has had this requirement since 2002. But that won’t be the case for much longer, now that our Tea Party-controlled legislature is on the case. Quick as a button, our esteemed legislators have proposed a bill to allow employers to refuse coverage of contraceptives as part of their group health insurance for religious reasons.
Currently each state sets standards for what health insurance policies must cover. For example, in 2010, only 12 states mandated coverage of maternity care in the individual insurance market, and 17 required it in the small-group market.
Arizona is one of the states where individual health insurance policies do not cover maternity, except for complications of pregnancy. And yet, young women are charged about $100 more per month than young men for the same policy.
In Arizona, if a woman without health insurance gets pregnant, she is uninsurable if she is trying to buy health insurance as an individual. That’s because her pregnancy is a pre-existing condition and she will be denied health insurance. Nationwide, 13% of women who become pregnant each year are not insured, which often results in inadequate prenatal care.
Federal law requires insurance coverage of contraceptives for federal employees and their dependents.
The health care reform law (the Affordable Care Act) provides a long list of services, including maternity coverage and contraceptives, that must be covered by all health insurance policies in all states. Given that 99% of American women have used contraceptives, the panel of health care experts who came up with the list must have figured this was a settled issue. I guess they were wrong.
I hope the debate continues through November because it puts a spotlight on women’s health, contraception, maternity coverage, and how bad the current health insurance system is for women. The more people talk about these things, the more they might realize the Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction.