A recently released study by the Guttmacher Institute reveals that the proportion of US women who paid zero dollars out-of-pocket for birth control significantly increased after the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive coverage guarantee went into effect in August 2012.  The proportion of women paying zero dollars for oral contraceptive pills increased from 15 to 40 percent, and the proportion of those paying zero for vaginal rings increased from 23 to 52 percent [PDF].

“Our analysis provides the first quantitative evidence that the cost-sharing protection under the ACA is indeed working as intended,” says Lawrence Finer, director of domestic research at the Guttmacher Institute. “Large numbers of women who couldn’t previously do so are now obtaining birth control without co-pays or deductibles, which allows them to more easily attain contraception’s well-documented health, social and economic benefits.”

The researchers, however, found that there has not been a significant change for injectable or IUD users, even though the ACA guarantees that all new health insurance plans cover FDA-approved contraceptives without co-pays or deductibles.  The findings suggest that some private insurers may not be applying the ACA’s mandate to the full range of contraceptive methods available. “Unfortunately, anecdotal evidence from media reports and from health insurance companies’ own publicly available documents suggest that some plans are improperly requiring cost-sharing in circumstances where they shouldn’t,” said Adam Sonfield, senior public policy associate at Guttmacher and study co-author. “This is unacceptable, and state and federal policy makers should step up enforcement as needed.”

The US Supreme Court will also soon determine how many women will benefit from the ACA birth control benefit.  In November, the Court agreed to hear a challenge to the ACA contraceptive coverage provision.  The Court will decide whether for-profit companies can assert religious objections in order to opt-out of the provision’s requirements and deny this coverage to their female employees.

The Feminist Majority Foundation launched a petition to send the Supreme Court a clear message that companies should not be able to use religion as cover to discriminate against women.  Sign our petition, leave stories,and tell the Court why birth control coverage matters to you! You can also share the petition online using the tag #MyBodyMyBC!

US Department of Health and Human Services 3/20/12; Guttmacher Institute 12/11/13; Feminist Newswire 11/26/13; Change.org

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