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Groundbreaking Decision on Contraception

By Dr. Sujatha Prabhakaran

Tuesday, the Institute of Medicine recommended that the Department of Health and Human Services require health insurers to fully cover birth control as a preventive service.  HHS is expected to decide the matter in August.  This means that if the agency adopts the IOM’s recommendation, women will no longer have to pay deductibles or make co-payments for birth control.  

Here’s why this groundbreaking decision would be great health policy and therefore great for American men and women.  This policy:        

Improves health

Women with proper information and access to birth control have healthier babies and fewer abortions. Women with unintended pregnancies were less likely to receive timely prenatal care, putting infants at greater risk for birth defects and in some cases resulting in more costly deliveries.

Additionally improved contraceptive use among sexually active women helps prevent abortion.  Data indicate that as contraceptive use rose from 80 percent in 1982 to 86 percent in 2002, the abortion rate for the same group fell from 50 per 1,000 women to 34 per 1,000.

Saves costs

Better access to contraceptives saves money and improves the economic bottom lines of individuals, employers, and taxpayers.

According to the federal government’s Healthy People 2020 report, teenage mothers are less likely to graduate from high school or attain a GED by the time they reach age 30. They also earn an average of $3,500 less per year when compared with those who delay childbearing, and they receive nearly twice as much federal aid for nearly twice as long.

The National Business Group on Health (NBGH) estimated that it costs employers 15 to 17 percent more not to provide contraceptive coverage in employee health plans.

Is popular

American voters overwhelmingly support full coverage of prescription birth control.

According to a recent Thomson Reuters-NPR Health Poll:

  • 77 percent of Americans believe that private medical insurance should cover the costs of the pill.
  • 74 percent of Americans believe that government-sponsored insurance should also cover the pill.
  • Among those under 35 years old, 83 percent believe private insurance should cover birth control and 79 percent believe government-sponsored insurance should cover the pill.

The British seized on a great American invention 50 years ago, and made oral contraceptive pills easily available to all British women.  I have no question that once this policy is in place, American men and women will ask why this didn’t happen long ago in the U.S.  I commend the IOM and hope HHS does not hesitate in approving this recommendation. 

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