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Study Shows Significant Increases in Insurance Coverage of Contraceptives

A new study released by the Alan Guttmacher Institute found that 89 percent of typical insurance plans now cover the five leading methods of prescription contraceptives. These numbers are a substantial increase in contraceptive coverage since 1993, when a parallel study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute found that only 28 percent of typical plans covered these same methods (the diaphragm, the intra-uterine device (IUD), one month injectables, three month injectables, and oral contraceptives). While state laws and recent court rulings provide much of the impetus behind this increase, Sharon Camp of the Guttmacher Institute told the Washington Post that Viagra also played an important role. Widespread coverage by insurance companies of Viagra following its FDA approval in 1998 sparked an outcry from women whose contraceptives were not covered. While prescription contraceptives for federal employees have been covered through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program since 1999, approximately 77 percent of Americans under 65 years of age are insured through private, employer-sponsored insurance, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute. Insurance purchased through insurance companies is governed by state insurance laws, which often must be challenged on a state-by-state basis. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in December of 2000 that employers’ failure to include contraceptives in plans that covered prescription drugs was sex discrimination. A district court ruling six months later in Washington State found it illegal to exclude prescription contraceptives from an otherwise comprehensive prescription drug plan. However, since these decisions are only technically applicable to those companies involved in the cases, coverage of contraceptives still varies widely by company and by state. Currently, 21 states have laws mandating that private sector insurance companies that cover prescription drugs must also cover prescription contraceptives. According to the new study, states without mandates “were significantly less likely” to cover common contraceptive methods than those with mandates. The study found that these mandates probably affect only about a quarter of women who are insured through company-sponsored plans, and insurance providers can still restrict access to contraceptives through tactics such as requiring high out-of-pocket expenses to obtain contraceptives. DONATE to the Feminist Majority Foundation and support our work for women’s health

Sources:

Alan Guttmacher Institute, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 6/14/04; Washington Post 6/14/04

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