[Today’s guest blog is by Erica Brunner, former HCFA staffer and now a leader at NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts.]
In the past, laws like those that prevented unmarried women from accessing contraception were the main barrier women faced in controlling their health and bodies. However, in recent years the cost of contraception and office visits necessary to obtain a prescription have resulted in a financial burden that can be as high as $600 a month out-of-pocket—a barrier for many women to access basic reproductive health care.
Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed in 2012, 52% of women reported delaying needed medical care because of the cost. Under health care reform, insurers are now required to cover physician-recommended preventative services, including contraception, without cost sharing. Since August 1, 2012, over 45 million women nationwide have taken advantage of free preventative services, such as well-woman visits, cancer screenings, and contraception.
Although many women have already reaped the benefits of this law, there are more benefits to come. The ACA won’t be in full effect until next year, and on October 1, 2013, the Health Insurance Marketplaces will be open nationwide, with all health plans required to cover some contraceptive options. The marketplace concept was modeled off of the Massachusetts exchange, our Health Connector. More than 225,000 Massachusetts residents have gained health insurance coverage through the Health Connector, allowing Massachusetts to have the lowest uninsured rate in the country.
The passage of the ACA is a huge step forward for women, but there is more to do! The ACA does not require insurance plans to offer all forms of contraception at no cost to consumers. Additionally, many plans do not cover long-acting reversible contraception, which are proven to be most effective at preventing pregnancy and can be more cost-effective for long term use.
Even though the ACA has paved the way for women to access basic health care regardless of their income, women need to be aware of these benefits and the specific contraception their insurance providers will cover with no cost sharing. The National Women’s Law Center has created tool kit that provides women with information on how to ensure that they are getting the coverage and no-cost preventative services that the health care law allows them. You can find the tool kit on their website.
As Massachusetts moves forward with the implementation of payment reform, it will be critical to ensure that women continue to see increased access to all forms of contraception – which is why the NARAL-led Massachusetts Women’s Health Policy Coalition is working with partners such as HCFA and the Administration to make this a reality in our state.
-Erica Brunner, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts