In news that will make you say OH HELL NO, insurance companies are still trying to wriggle their way out of paying for your birth control.
The National Women's Law Center recently released not one but TWO studies that found evidence of insurance companies ignoring provisions in the Affordable Care Act that require FDA-approved methods of birth control be covered without a co-pay or other charges. The loophole exploitation extends even further as insurers fail to cover basic medical services like well-woman exams and family counseling, as well as deny certain methods, like the patch, in favor of oral contraception—regardless of a woman's personal preference.
Luckily, the federal government has issued three pointed reminders to health insurance companies this week through the Department of Labor, the Department of Health, and Human Services and the Treasury Department. The message? Essentially say put up or shut up, but follow the rules immediately.
The "clarifying guidance" states that insurance must cover “without cost sharing” (i.e. co-pays, deductibles, any general cost), “at least one form of contraception in each of the (18) methods that the FDA has identified for women in its current Birth Control Guide.”
Not one to lose face, Karen M. Ignagni, the president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, fired back by telling The New York Times that the law center’s report offered “a distorted picture of reality.”
“Health plans provide access to care for millions of women each day and receive high marks in customer satisfaction surveys," she said. We're not sure which is more unlikely—that this woman has never personally used birth control before, or that she has never in her life had an issue at the pharmacy counter over the cost of her monthly BC pack. Either way, that's some serious BS.
Ladies, the law is on our side, and with a little bit of guidance, you too can demand and receive your choice of contraception for free. First step is to research your insurance company's policy regarding brand name and generic prescriptions. Most will guarantee coverage for the latter, and most oral medications do have a generic counterpart.
HOWEVER, there are a handful of pills that do not offer an alternative yet, like Ortho Tri-cyclen Lo, and you would theoretically be charged for the Rx. But you're a savvy badass babe, and no sneaky regulation is going to keep you from your right to free birth control, nor are you going to take the time to find a new medication that fits your body and hormones. That process was hassle enough. Instead, ask to speak to a new service representative or director of communications for your insurance company, and appeal the copay. How do you do that? State that the medication is necessary, a generic version is unavailable, and that the cost should be covered under the new mandate. BOOM. If they don't comply, you've got every right to take legal action.
It's unfortunate that we basically have to threaten and goad insurers into doing what they are now legally required to do, especially after so much progress has been made in terms of insurance policy reform. But with change comes resistance, so it's nice to see that the feds are stepping up to defend our rights as women and citizens. And when that's not enough, don't be afraid to make an appeal, even if it means an inevitable 45 minute hold time on the phone: It's worth it!
In the end, this is just the next step in the fight for equal reproductive rights, and hopefully, if and when the time comes that you decide you don't need birth control and maybe even have a rad feminist daughter of your own, she won't have to jump through the same hoops to make decisions about her body.
image c/o: thinkprogress.org