UPDATE: President Biden has opened a special enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act health insurance plans for 2021. You can now enroll in one of these plans until August 15, 2021, at healthcare.gov. Some states have their own open enrollment periods and websites for signing up. Check to see if your state does. We also have more information about how to get insurance and learn what kinds of plans to watch out for.
Recently, we urged you to get up-close-and-personal with your Senators to protect health care, including access to birth control. Normal people made their voices heard, and U.S. senators worked across party lines to defeat a bill that would’ve caused 16 million people to lose health insurance—and with it, access to the full range of birth control methods without copays.
This is a huge victory, but keeping birth control affordable doesn’t stop at protecting coverage through private insurance. Publicly funded programs like Medicaid and Title X are crucial to keep birth control accessible for people of all income levels and circumstances across the country. Want to know how crucial? Almost 9 million women, especially women with lower incomes, rely on publicly funded contraceptive services.
Title X and Medicaid: A birth control safety net for millions of women
Title X Family Planning funding has been key to building a network of family planning centers across the country. These centers can include community health centers, local health departments, Planned Parenthood affiliates, and outpatient clinics. If you’ve had the benefit of receiving contraceptive care without insurance coverage, or using an income-based sliding scale to determine how much you’ll pay for birth control, you may be one of the four million people who can thank Title X for helping make their care affordable each year.
Medicaid is free or low-cost health care coverage for millions of people, based mainly on income. Many women get full health coverage through Medicaid, which includes family planning services. But Medicaid expansion, which was adopted by over 30 states as part of the Affordable Care Act, makes it possible for women who don’t qualify for general Medicaid coverage to get family planning services too.
Even with current levels of Title X and Medicaid funding, over 19 million women already live in areas without “reasonable access” to the full range of birth control methods. (“Reasonable access” basically means there are enough health care providers to meet the needs of the population.) Cuts or restrictions to either program will only make that number bigger and will most impact the women who can afford it least. This is why it’s so important to let your elected officials know that you want them to protect funding for both programs.
How can you help? If the fight to protect insurance access has taught us anything, it’s that our voices can effect change! Members of Congress are on August recess, which means your elected officials are back in their home states listening to constituents like you. If you don’t know who your senators and representatives are, visit the U.S. Senate and U.S. House websites to find out. Once you’ve got names and contact information, you can call them, visit them, or attend their town hall meetings. To demonstrate how easy it is to contact your elected officials, our policy intern Yema-Juliet created a video to walk you through the process.
You can also use this easy script:
Step 1: Introduce yourself
Staffer: Good afternoon, [Representative/Senator’s name—in this case we’ll say Representative Robinson]’s office, this is [staffer’s name—in this case we’ll say Rachel] speaking. How can I help you?
You: Hi Rachel. My name is [your name] and I live in [city + zip code]. May I speak with Representative Robinson or the staff member who oversees health care issues?” (You will most likely end up speaking with a member of the senator’s staff.)
Staffer: The Congresswoman isn’t available at the moment, but I can take a message and pass it along to her.
Step 2: Share your story
You: Thanks. My name is [your name] and I’m a constituent. I’m calling to ask that Representative Robinson strongly support public funding for contraception, specifically the Title X Family Planning Program and Medicaid. Given recent attacks on these programs, I’m very worried about the ability of all women, regardless of income, to have access to the full range of birth control methods. Birth control gives women like me the power to decide our futures, and my ability to get affordable birth control has helped me to get the education and career I have today.
Step 3: Close the call
Staffer: Thanks. Representative Robinson has not yet decided how she’ll vote, and much will depend on what else is in any legislation before her. I’ve taken down your comments though, and I’ll pass them along to the Congresswoman.
You: Thanks Rachel. This issue affects my daily life, and I’ll be following the Congresswoman’s votes on Title X funding and the Medicaid program closely. I appreciate your time.
As we fight to protect birth control access for those who all who need it, it’s important to remember that we have power. Just like we used our voices to make sure our elected officials knew we opposed rolling back the ACA, we can continue to hold them accountable. If you have experience calling officials or attending town halls, share your stories in the comments below!