Groups want more aid for birth control

Lawmakers debate whether health insurance should cover contraceptives.
Students await a congressional decision deciding whether birth control will be considered preventative care.
November 22, 2010

As health care reform takes shape, some groups are vying for more complete preventative care options — including prescription birth control and contraceptives.


Kathi Di Nicola, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood in Minneapolis, stressed the importance of adding prescription birth control to insurance plans as an option under preventative care because many women can’t afford to pay for it on their own.


Currently, lawmakers are discussing the parameters for what is considered preventative care under health care reform. Certain employer insurance plans cover birth control pills and other prescription contraceptives under their preventative care. But Di Nicola said Planned Parenthood wants to see contraceptives covered by all insurance plans.


If birth control were to be federally mandated as preventative care, it would be listed as such in all insurance plans along with other measures including immunizations and breast exams.


At the University of Minnesota, preventative care is limited under the student health benefit plan — the University’s health insurance option for students — which is common among student plans, said Susann Jackson, director of student health benefits.


The student health benefit plan currently covers 80 percent of preventative care with a cap of $200, Jackson said.


This cap will be removed in the fall of 2011 due to the health care reform law. Next fall, preventative care will be covered 80 percent by the student health benefit plan and 20 percent by student services fees.


Di Nicola said Planned Parenthood sees the benefits of adding prescription birth control under the coverage of health care reform, which, she said, ranges from fewer unwanted pregnancies to more women receiving the birth control methods they need and desire.


Jackson agreed.


"I think, yes, it’s going to be helpful for students if they’re having services outside of Boynton," she said.


Right now, students who are using prescription birth control methods can get them through Boynton pharmacies. Insurance covers most of the cost, though students pay a co-pay.


The Student Health Advisory Committee made recommendations Friday about the items that they believe should be addressed regarding the student health benefit plan.


SHAC President Annmarie Bodnia said that the committee would recommend the institution of a hard waiver and debate whether student services fees should continue to cover co-pays at Boynton.


"Right now preventative care is still being defined by the government," she said. "Birth control is kind of iffy right now."


Bodnia said that because preventative care is up in the air right now, its benefits under the student health benefits plan haven’t been discussed in length by SHAC.


A study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, a health research firm, found that 55 percent of women ages 18-34 have at one time in their life struggled to manage the costs of birth control.


Although first-year student Madeline Robertson doesn’t directly pay for her birth control, she can see the benefits involved with classifying birth control as a preventative care.


"I think it would be beneficial," she said, adding that she knows that having to pay for tuition and other bills as well as birth control is something she knows she wouldn’t want to do.


Di Nicola said she hopes that legislators will choose to cover birth control as preventative care so women don’t need to choose between things like utility bills and birth control.

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