No More Loopholes: Birth Control for All
For nine years, I took the same form of birth control, required for medical reasons. But when I turned 26 and enrolled in a new insurance plan, I lost coverage of that particular brand, leaving me with a $200 per month bill that I couldn’t afford.
Obamacare requires health insurance companies to fully cover all forms of birth control for women (without co-pays) because certain forms of contraception work better or worse depending on the person. However, many insurance companies, like mine, find ways around meeting this requirement.
But hope is on the horizon for New Yorkers! The New York State Assembly just passed a bill designed to close the loopholes that restrict access to contraception for women in our state.
The Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act (CCCA), if written into law, would secure insurance coverage for a broad range of birth control methods and eliminate logistical barriers by allowing women to access a full year of birth control at once. The law would also improve access to emergency contraception (EC), which is currently available over-the-counter but costs anywhere from $50 to $75, a barrier for many women. Insurance companies now only cover emergency contraception with a prescription, but because EC must be used within 72 hours after unprotected sex, obtaining a prescription in the required timeframe is unlikely. Time is a luxury women and men in emergency situations simply do not have, so affordable over-the-counter EC is essential to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
Consistent, affordable access to the right type of birth control is crucial to not only my health but also my participation in the paid workforce and civil society. Without the ability to make decisions with my partner about when to have children, I might have missed out on my college degree or a promotion at work. Barriers to comprehensive birth control coverage limit women’s participation in society, hindering our economy and global competitiveness. Improving access to reproductive health care is fundamental to gender equity, women’s health and the economic and political strength of New York State.
Not only are insurance companies refusing to follow the law and cover birth control, but they also enforce policies that make it very difficult to take the medicine effectively. Most pills require oral administration every day at the same time, beginning on a Sunday (when pharmacies are usually closed). I can only pick up one month’s worth of medicine at a time, which means the effectiveness of the medication decreases because I have to disrupt my daily dosage to wait for a refill. CCCA would allow women to access one year’s worth of contraception at once.
These bureaucratic rules exist even though women still need to consult with their doctors annually to even secure a prescription for the pill. Oregon and California have begun to legalize over-the-counter birth control, because they trust women to make decisions about their own health. The process of securing and maintaining birth control coverage should not be this difficult in New York. For women who want to responsibly take care of their bodies, the cost in time and money is an impediment.
The CCCA, if passed by the Senate and signed into law by Governor Cuomo, would hold insurance companies accountable to providing what they are already legally required to provide. Better and more consistent coverage for all birth control options will prevent unwanted pregnancies and give women the power to make the best possible decisions about their bodies, thus strengthening New York families and communities.
New York should set the example for the rest of the nation in excellent healthcare and gender equity for all, beginning simply with improving access to birth control. Learn more about innovations in birth control access and other Health Plan Violations of the Affordable Care Act and contact your State Senator to tell them you support passage of the CCCA with the help of the NOW-NYC guide for language to use when lobbying.
Katrina Ballard works at a health education tech company and volunteers with various advocacy organizations in New York City. She is passionate about reproductive freedom and has been known to hand out condoms on spring break. @KatrinaBallard https://medium.com/@katrinaballard
April 8, 2016