Health Reproductive Rights

Obama Administration Clarifies ACA Birth Control Benefit After Reports of Conflicting Policies

The Obama administration announced yesterday in new guidance to health insurance companies that insurers are obligated to cover all forms of birth control under the Affordable Care Act.

via Shutterstock
via Shutterstock

The guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) details that insurance companies must cover at least one version of all 18 federally approved birth control methods. The HHS announcement comes after many agency reports indicating that insurers had conflicting policies on covering contraceptives, some of which violate the ACA requirement that contraception is offered at no cost.

“Under the Affordable Care Act, women are no longer supposed to be at the mercy of insurance companies,” said Gretchen Borchelt, Vice President for Health and Reproductive Rights at the National Women’s Law Center. “It is now absolutely clear that all means all—all unique birth control methods for women must be covered.”

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. The HHS also specified that insurers cannot limit contraceptive services for transgender people based on the sex assigned to them at birth. This is a very important clarification as, according to the Human Rights Campaign, transgender people are “routinely denied” preventative care services.

This new guidance comes during National Women’s Health Week, and is being lauded by many women’s organizations, including the Feminist Majority Foundation. “Feminists have worked very hard for this coverage,” said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “This will not only benefit millions of women, but it will provide the access and choice that for too long too many women could not afford.”

Debra Ness, President of the National Partnership for Women and Families, called the HHS guidance “another badly needed step to improve women’s health.”

Clare Coleman, President and CEO of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, wrote of the impact that affording women more choices with their birth control will have.

“A difference in contraceptive method is not superficial,” Coleman said. “It matters to women and men that they have a choice of method that is appropriate for their own health and circumstances.”

Media Resources: Natoinal Women’s Law Center Press Release 5/11/15; The Hill 5/11/15; HRC Blog 5/12/15; National Partnership for Women & Families Press Release 5/11/15; NFPRHA Press Release 5/11/15

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