Why we need the rule for birth control coverage in health insurance
by Pam Sutherland, Citizen Action/Illinois Board Member and Vice President Public Policy, Planned Parenthood of Illinois
There’s been a lot in the news about the federal rule requiring birth control coverage in health insurance. This rule, which was recommended by the non-partisan and highly respected Institute of Medicine (IOM), requires health insurance to cover contraception with no deductible or co-pay. The original rule allowed religious entities, such as churches, to opt out of this coverage. The exemption was limited to entities that employ people of the faith and serve people of their faith. Religiously affiliated organizations, such as universities or hospitals, were not given an exemption because they employ and they serve people regardless of their religious affiliation.
The principles behind this rule have been established in federal and state laws. In fact, 28 states already have laws requiring contraception be covered by health insurance, and there is not any controversy about that. Because it is such basic health care, the EEOC has found that denying women contraceptive coverage constitutes sex discrimination. Moreover, the state laws that have limited exemptions for religious employers, but not religiously affiliated employers, have been tested and upheld in several courts.
The reason that so many states and now federal health care reform include the requirement to cover birth control is because it is good medicine. The IOM considers birth control an essential part of women’s health care because it is fundamental to improving women’s health and the health of their families. It saves lives, helps prevent unintended pregnancies, improves the outcomes for children, and reduces abortion. It also is used to treat medical conditions such as endometriosis. For these reasons, 99% of women who have had sex have used birth control. Even Catholic women have used birth control – 98%!
The bottom line is that all women should have access to contraception, have it without a co-pay, and have it no matter where they work. This birth control benefit increases access to preventive health care while respecting religious freedom. Taking this benefit away would be devastating for millions of workers.