A hard fought day is finally here! Next week, August 1st to be exact, mandatory 100% coverage of a number of women’s preventive services, including the frustratingly controversial contraception provision, will go into place for many women. If you have an insurance plan written on or after August 1st, 2012, it will now have to cover the following women’s preventive services with no co pay:
- Well women visits
- HPV DNA testing
- STI including HIV counseling
- Breastfeeding support, supplies and counseling
- Domestic violence screening
- Contraception and contraceptive counseling
These are in addition to all the other preventive services that must already be covered. Not everyone will instantly have coverage on August 1st. First you must have insurance, and then you might have coverage right away if your insurance plan chooses. You might not have coverage until your plan renews. And if you work for a religious employer, you will probably have to wait another year as they have until August 2013 to implement the regulation. But woman are gaining ground.
However, there are still threats to contraceptive coverage. Last week a federal judge dismissed a suit filed on behalf of seven states (Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas) who claimed that the contraception mandate violated their religious freedom because ( I’m going to just directly quote from the Huffington Post, because the argument is convoluted):
“The states claimed that the contraception mandate violates religious freedom rights under the First Amendment by only carving out an exemption for those religious organizations that primarily serve and employ people of their own faiths. A Catholic charity, the attorney generals contended, would have to stop serving people of other religions in order to avoid having to pay for its employees' birth control, and then those unserved people would have to turn to the state for assistance.”
And there are still two dozen other suits from religiously affiliated institutions such as universities that are pending. One of these was dismissed last week, but there are many more to come. But for now the contraception mandate is safe and we can celebrate one more step in the right direction for reducing the health disparities between men and women.