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How 'bout some birth control with your health insurance?

On the bumpy road to fully covered birth control, some progress.

UPDATE: 2020 open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act plans runs from November 1, 2019 to December 15, 2019. Some states have longer open enrollment periods. Check to see if your state does here. Also, you can get more information about how to get insurance here and learn what kinds of plans to watch out for here.

The latest research from the Guttmacher Institute shows that more women with private health insurance were able to get their birth control for no out-of-pocket cost thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

The researchers asked over 1,200 sexually experienced women ages 18-39 around the United States about their birth control costs in November or December of 2012 and again in May or June of 2013. During the six months in between, it became law for all new health insurance plans to cover the full range of birth control methods approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration without out-of-pocket costs.

It’s working, but it’s not perfect yet.

About three-quarters of the women in the study had private health insurance. In 2012, only 15% of those women who used the pill were able to get their monthly pack without out-of-pocket costs. In 2013, that went up to 40%. For women who used the ring, 23% got their method without out-of-pocket costs in 2012 and 52% did in 2013.

About 1 in 8 women in the study reported having public health insurance, like Medicaid or a state plan. Nearly all of them should be eligible to have their birth control completely covered, yet only 79% of women using the pill in this group reported that they got their pills without a copay.

Unfortunately, the researchers didn’t have enough information to say how costs had changed for women using the shot, IUD, implant, or patch during this study, but they’re collecting more data so they can answer those questions.

Why are some women still paying out of pocket for birth control?

The devil’s in the details. Some health insurance plans aren’t required to offer this coverage yet. Many plans are not covering out-of-pocket costs for brand-name pills if they have a generic equivalent. The researchers expect to see more and more women getting their birth control covered as this study continues. The sample sizes for this study were small, so over time the researchers should also have a clearer picture of how the law is affecting women using each individual method of birth control. We’ll let you know what they find!

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