Blog Post

Access to Free Birth Control Jumps 42 Percent in One year


Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

The next time someone complains about how a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding Obamacare's birth control mandate is limiting women's access to contraceptives, remind them that more women than ever are now receiving free birth control.

The Associated Press (AP) is reporting on recent data from the IMS Institute which reveals that more than half of privately insured women are getting free birth control under the Affordable Care Act. This number reflects a major coverage shift that experts believe will only continue to advance.

"Recent data from the IMS Institute document a sharp change during 2013," the AP reports. "The share of privately insured women who got their birth control pills without a copayment jumped to 56 percent, from 14 percent in 2012."

This is because the law's requirement that most health plans cover birth control as prevention, at no additional cost to women, took full effect in 2013.

According to IMS Institute director Michael Kleinrock, the average annual savings for women amounts to $269 - or $22 per month.

What the Supreme Court did when it ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby and other "closely held" companies whose owners object to being forced to cover items that violate their religious beliefs is afford continuing constitutional protection for what many believe is a small "niche" of companies. Most companies in the U.S. don't fit into that small niche, however.

This is why Neil Trautwein, an employee benefits expert at the National Retail Federation, told the AP he doesn't think the Hobby Lobby decision will have a very broad impact because this kind of coverage is "a commonly offered benefit for many employers, including retailers."

The court decision involved "a very unique set of facts . . . .intense religious beliefs, closely held companies and the vehement objection to contraceptive coverage," Trautwein said.

Although it's too early to tell what kind of impact the mandate will have on birth control use, the availability of free pills isn't making much of a difference to date.

"The number of prescriptions for oral contraceptives that were filled grew in 2013, but at about the same rate as in recent years," the AP reports.

So the next time "reproductive rights" activists like Sandra Fluke use the Hobby Lobby decision as an excuse to trot out the old "war on women" mantra, counter it with the kind of facts women deserve to hear.

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