Women on Birth Control Should Get Their Money Back

oral contraceptivesIt's a big day for women in the U.S.A.! The Institute of Medicine has released a report recommending that affordable birth control be made available to millions of us sans co-pay. In other words, they say that under the health care reform law, all USDA-approved contraceptives (including emergency contraception) be fully covered by insurance plans, aka FREE to patients!

Wowowow. It's as if someone woke up and finally realized it's the 21st century, slapped themselves on the forehead, and said, "Hey! Women should be able to easily, affordably control their own destinies!" I say it's about DAMN TIME!

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There is absolutely no good reason for the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services to turn their backs on this very obvious recommendation that those of us who back the plight of Planned Parenthood have been campaigning for for about half a CENTURY.

Any woman who has ever wanted to be in the driver's seat of her own future will agree that zero cost birth control should have been the case all along. We should have never had to deal with the burden of co-pays, deductibles, and other nickle-and-diming fees for approved (hormonal and non-hormonal) birth control or sterilization methods. In fact, if they wanted to be really fair about it, we'd get some kind of retroactive reimbursement for shelling out thousands for contraception over the past however many years! Ha!

How many other ridiculous things have been covered 100 percent by insurance or covered at a much cheaper co-pay rate than birth control? Like friggin' Viagra? Sure, all different types of contraception have been partially covered, but most of us have paid anywhere from $5-$100+ a month for a pill, and if we want something like a nonhormonal intrauterine device (IUD), that hasn't come cheap either!

But in addition to annual HIV tests, breastfeeding support, and a well-woman care visit (which the IOM states should also be fully covered -- woot!), contraception is absolutely basic preventative care. It allows women to choose if or when they get pregnant. (You know, pregnancy -- that huge health decision that should be intended and PLANNED.) Also, in some cases, the pill is the best bandage for hormonal imbalances like endometriosis or polycystic ovaries.

You could think of it this way ... Affordable birth control is the difference between a young woman staying in school and going on to college or dropping out. It's the difference between painful, debilitating periods that put a woman out of commission 10 days out of every month or her being able to live her life! It's the difference between a mother running the risk of having too short a time span between pregnancies (which is linked to higher mortality, low birth weight, preterm births, miscarriages, etc.) and her being able to space a sufficient amount of time out between births.

And FYI -- fiscal conservatives (Tea Partiers, I'm looking at you) should LOVE this recommendation. Because, in short, the direct medical cost of unintended pregnancy was estimated to be almost $5 billion in 2002! (Given the financial crisis, it's probably more now!) But the cost savings due to contraceptive use in that same year was estimated to be $19.3 BILLION. That's a helluva lotta moolah SAVED simply by making contraceptives more readily available.

Clearly, both the math and the facts add up in favor of this recommendation being implemented by Uncle Sam. We won't know what they decide until next month, but fingers crossed, this turn of events will mark one giant leap for womankind

What do you think about the IOM's recommendation? Should health insurance plans fully cover contraception?

 

Image via Nate Grigg/Flickr

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