UPDATE: On December 15th, a federal court temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s birth control rules from going into effect. So for now no co-pay coverage of the full range of birth control methods is still required for most plans. We don’t know how long this will be the case, but continue enjoying those sweet $0 co-pays! And if you’re having trouble getting your birth control covered without co-pays, the folks at coverher.org can help.
Social media is buzzing with news that our current Administration has given U.S. employers and insurers power to deny women birth control coverage based on moral and religious objections. Any employer—including private universities that offer student health plans—can stop offering coverage for some or all methods of contraception if they object for moral or religious reasons.
Since most of us pay for insurance plans with our employers, this is kind of a big deal. These new rules mean you’ll continue to pay your premium plus all costs for your birth control method if your employer has objections. Without coverage, the pill can cost up to $113 a month, and an IUD can cost up to $800.
How did we get here?
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), birth control is one of several preventive services for women. This means insurance plans are required to cover all FDA-approved birth control methods with no additional out-of-pocket costs (like copays).
Churches and other houses of worship were exempt from this requirement, but religious nonprofits and certain for-profit businesses who objected got a compromise called an accommodation. This accommodation allowed them to opt out of paying for birth control while ensuring their employees still got birth control coverage without copays. The accommodation seemed awesome for everyone involved, but many religious institutions still objected.
So what changed?
On October 6, 2017, new regulations made it easy for almost any employer to opt out of providing birth control coverage based on religious or moral objections. No one is sure how many employers are going to take advantage of these exemptions. The employers that were using the accommodation may switch to exemptions, and employers that previously had not objected could now get an exemption. Others may decide to cover some but not all of birth control methods. No matter how many people are affected, one thing is clear: this will make birth control even less accessible.
What does this mean for your coverage?
It’s hard to predict how many employers will choose not to cover some or all methods of contraception. But if you live in California, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New York, or Oregon then you’re in luck. These states have laws protecting the requirement to cover birth control at no copay. Other states have laws requiring insurance plans to cover at least some methods, but these laws can have religious exemptions as well. If you suspect you’re in danger of losing birth control coverage, you’ll want to look out for any messages from your insurance provider that mention changes in your coverage. You can also call your insurance company directly and ask if these new rules will affect your plan. The regulations are effective immediately, but your employer might not take advantage right away. You’ll want to follow up with your insurance company more than once. If you’ve been on the fence about getting a long-term method like an IUD, now might be the time to consider it.
If you’re currently paying out-of-pocket costs for birth control, contact CoverHer, a service run by the National Women’s Law Center to ensure that you’re not paying unnecessary contraceptive costs.
Even if you’re not in danger of losing coverage, lend your voice to the fight because everyone deserves access to the most effective forms of birth control.
What can we do to fight this?
It’s going to take all of our voices to make sure birth control remains accessible for all. For even ways to get involved, check out Power to Decide’s activation page.