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Free Birth Control Covered by Insurance? It's About Time

By August 3, 2011

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Long before Carly Fiorina ran her own unsuccessful Senate campaign in California, she rode shotgun on a number of occasions for John McCain when he was stumping for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008. She represented McCain's attempt to gain the "women's vote" in his pre -Palin days, and to her credit, Fiorina often went where no man dared to go.

The most notable example occurred when a reporter asked McCain about insurance companies that cover Viagra but not birth control. The Republican presidential candidate responded with "I certainly do not want to discuss that issue," while Fiorina, sitting a few seats away, was quoted by an AP reporter as saying, "I've been hearing a lot about from women: There are many health insurance plans that will cover Viagra but won't cover birth-control medication. Those women would like a choice."

My, oh my. The times they are a-changin'...and one major health care policy change announced Monday means that no beleaguered male politician will ever have to stumble over that uncomfortable question again. (How much more pleasant the 2012 election cycle will be because of it.)

While everybody was up in arms and distracted by the partisan 'debt ceiling' battle, a small victory for women snuck in through the back door as the Department of Health and Human Services released new guidelines for the health insurance industry. Starting August 1, 2011, women with insurance coverage in the US will no longer have to pay a single red cent for birth control prescriptions (or any form of FDA-approved contraception) thanks to an extension of basic care for women that includes a broader definition of 'preventive services.'

This was one of eight major changes in the new HHS guidelines, but it's the provision that's drawn the most attention and ire from -- predictably -- religious groups opposed to birth control and the conservative wing of the GOP.

It's a much-appreciated gift to women from a president who declared himself pro-choice during his campaign for the Oval Office and understands that without access to affordable family planning services and birth control methods, women will find themselves facing unintended pregnancies.

Sexually active women who are responsible enough to seek out ways to prevent pregnancy that involve visits to a health care professional's office should be applauded and supported. They're taking control of their lives and not relying on their partners to carry a condom, or putting their trust in less effective over-the-counter contraceptives for women, or forgoing contraception entirely. But if there's a co-pay of $5-50 for one month of birth control pills, there will always be those who say, "I can't afford that."

Now the Obama administration has made contraception affordable to every woman who is insured. Instead of fighting a policy that makes sense, both sides should support this positive move in the direction of ending unwanted pregnancies through prevention, not abortion. It's a smart one that's cost effective and long overdue.

And as women have pondered for years, if an insurance company can cover Viagra, why not birth control?

Photo Tim Matsui/Getty Images

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Comments

August 3, 2011 at 9:23 am
(1) PEDRO GONZALEZ says:

I WAS NOT SURPRISED TO SEE THAT THE PROPONENTS OF THIS CHANGE “SNUCK IT IN” WHILE EVERYONE ELSE WAS CONCERNED WITH A MUCH MORE SERIOUS PROBLEM. THAT SEEMS TO BE THE NORM FOR THESE SLEEZY POLITICANS.
PERSONALLY, I DON’T THINK US OLDER GUYS OUGHT TO GET VIAGRA COVERAGE, EVEN THOUGH WE DON’T GET IT FREE. I ALSO DON’T THINK WOMEN SHOULD GET FREE CONTRACEPTIVES. I THOUGHT6 WE HAD A HEALTH CARE CRISES DUE TO HIGH COST. WHO DO YOU THINK IS GOING TO PAY FOR THIS FREEBE.

August 3, 2011 at 1:11 pm
(2) Verbo Carne says:

Are you really comparing Viagra to contraceptives? It’s about time our insurances covered contraceptives. Lots of women, including myself, spend more money on contraceptives than on any other type of medicines, and it’s not fair to have the burden to pay monthly for something that should be covered by our insurance companies. I applaud the government for this, but I know now insurance companies will try to pass the cost of adding contraceptives to their list to the consumers. Anyhow, I will be anxiously waiting to be able to cover my pills with my insurance.

August 4, 2011 at 4:59 am
(3) Veronica says:

Pedro, it’s either free contraceptives for us women to plan our pregnancies and families or thousands of your tax dollars to support unwanted pregnancies. Take your pick.

August 4, 2011 at 11:14 am
(4) CM says:

Free birth control for women is great but what about for men? Can they get free vasectomies or, at the very least, free condoms?

August 4, 2011 at 4:41 pm
(5) Nia says:

CM- Condoms are not a prescription drug (by the way, you can get them for free at Planned Parenthood), and vasectomies are already covered by many major insurance providers.

August 4, 2011 at 7:57 pm
(6) Fredi says:

Even though the condoms at Planned Parenthood have the highest failure rates, they’re still free!
It’s about time that BC is free… Right wingers need to pick an argument. If they’re going to condemn women for preventing or ending pregnancy, they should stop calling single mothers and pregnant teens dirty names and taking away support from them and their children.

August 6, 2011 at 1:42 pm
(7) adam says:

But this covers any method approved by the FDA. So women can get the VCF sheets, inserts, the female condom, or the pill for free now. Men can choose to be covered for an operation to never have children again, but that’s it. This would be like the government telling women they can have their ovaries out for free, or pay for the other stuff.

August 23, 2011 at 11:24 pm
(8) brian says:

Why not just deregulate birth control and make it an over the counter medication. Or better yet just a copay? nothing is ever free.Since Obamacare has passed my health insurance has gotten more expensive, covers much less and i now have to meet a 200.00 deductible on medicisne for a chronic illness. The insurance carriers have seen the future as have employers and benefits are already shrinking. I miss the good old days when i could actually afford my much needed prescriptions.

March 2, 2012 at 10:57 am
(9) Joe says:

Adam, you do realize vasectomies are reversible, right?

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