Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) took effect, women have saved dramatically on birth control and emergency contraception.

A study conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and published in Health Affairs found that after the ACA mandate went into effect, birth control users have saved an average of $255 every year and IUD users have saved $248. Spending on implant devices has dropped to $91, a 72 percent decrease, and the cost of emergency contraceptives has declined by over 90 percent. Before the ACA, women were spending about 44 percent of their annual health expenditures on birth control, but after the mandate, that number has been reduced to 22 percent. At this rate, consumer spending on the pill alone could drop by almost $1.5 billion annually.

While the study was not able to definitively prove that the law was the cause of these falling expenditures, experts say that the timing and magnitude of the decline suggest that it was. These results are also consistent with smaller studies that have found similar results. “I find this study persuasive and consistent with what other studies are finding,” said Alina Salganicoff, the director of women’s health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “I think we’re seeing a clear pattern in the research.”

Under the ACA health insurance providers must cover preventive health services, such as birth control, without charging co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance. At least one version of all 18 federally approved birth control methods, including IUDs, the patch, pill, shots or injections, vaginal contraceptive rings, and some long-term options such as surgical sterilization or implant, must be available to women.

Costs have been a huge barrier to access to birth control, leading to an increase in the number of unintended pregnancies. About 3.3 million pregnancies each year in the United States are unintended, and, according to the Brookings Institution, poor women in the United States are five times as likely as affluent women to have unintended births.

“We have no doubt that the cost makes a difference,” said Diana Zuckerman, the president of the National Center for Health Research in Washington. “When you have free contraception, it’s going to affect pregnancy and abortion as well because money matters.”

Despite these positive findings, many women still do not have access to affordable birth control under the ACA. The National Women’s Law Center found that many insurance companies have failed to comply with the law. The ACA also does not cover all versions of birth control and many women still have to pay for contraception if their plans predate the ACA.

Media Resources: ThinkProgress 7/8/15; TIME 7/7/15; Feminist Newswire 6/12/14, 5/12/15; Brookings Institute 2/15; New York Times 7/7/15; National Women’s Law Center 4/30/15

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