Two-thirds of American woman now have access to free birth control, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The Guttmacher Institute released a study Thursday showing steep increases in the number of women who were able to take full advantage of the ACA birth control benefit. Since the benefit was implemented, the number of users who paid nothing out-of-pocket for oral contraceptives more than quadrupled. The number of people using other forms of contraception without facing any out-of-pocket expense also increased significantly. Among the privately insured who use vaginal rings, injectables, or IUDs, the increases jumped by double-digits across the board.
“This analysis shows that the contraceptive coverage guarantee under the ACA is working as intended,” said Adam Sonfield. Sonfield is a senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute and served as the lead author of the study, which was published in the journal Contraception. “That these benefits continue to accrue so quickly is remarkable, and shows that the contraceptive coverage guarantee is meeting a real demand.”
Although the ACA contraceptive coverage benefit is reaching millions of women, and will likely reach more as “grandfathered” health insurance plans lapse, the Guttmacher study found that gaps in coverage remained. These gaps were attributed to federal guidelines that exempt some employer-sponsored health plans on religious grounds as well as guidelines that allow insurers to charge co-pays in certain situations, such as for brand name drugs that have generic equivalents.
Guttmacher also found that some women were being charged co-pays when they shouldn’t. Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) recently sent letters to the CEOs of Walgreens and CVS Health for reportedly illegally charging consumers a co-pay for generic contraceptives. Noting that “many women may not know their rights under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and may go without this essential family planning service guaranteed to them under law,” the Congresswoman called on both CEOs to determine the scope of the problem, immediately correct it, and provide remedies to affected consumers.
The National Women’s Law Center has set up a hotline and online information center, called CoverHer, for women who are still paying out-of-pocket for contraceptive coverage or who are having difficulty accessing benefits.
Media Resources: Guttmacher Institute, 9/18/14; Contraception 2014; Congresswoman Jackie Speier 9/11/14, 9/9/14; National Women’s Law Center