Birth control could soon be free to insured women under new health care amendment

Insurance might cover the drug

Correction (November 12, 2010 1:28 AM): Due to a reporting error, this story incorrectly stated how much those enrolled in system health insurance have to pay for birth control. Those enrolled pay a co-payment of $10 per 30-day supply.

Birth control could soon be free for women who are insured by the UNC system or any other health care provider.

According to the system’s insurance policy, women who want birth control must pay a co-payment of $10 per 30-day supply, but this could soon change based on an amendment in the national health care reform bill passed earlier this year.

A federal government advisory board is expected to meet this month to decide whether birth control falls under the category of women’s preventive health care, which the amendment addresses.

The amendment requires insurance companies to cover mammograms and other forms of preventive health care for women.

Patricia Huff, director of administration for UNC Campus Health Services, said the cost of birth control for women is partially covered under most insurance policies.

“Since birth control is covered by most insurance plans now, I would say it’s already considered to be part of preventive health care,” Huff said.

“I think a lot of things have to be considered before the government decides on a plan like this, like where the revenue is coming from and a lot of other things,” she said.

Many health care providers for women are advocating for the benefits of the proposed plan.

“This really is a game-changer for women,” said Paige Johnson, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina.

“Right now there are still financial barriers that prevent some women from having access to some of the more reliable forms of birth control,” she said.

Johnson said the price of standard birth control methods, such as the pill, are usually around $30 per prescription.

About 93 million prescriptions for contraceptives were filled in 2009 alone.

Many think the coverage of birth control, if passed, could start a shift toward more reliable and expensive forms of birth control, such as intrauterine devices, which are not used by as many women in the United States because of their higher cost.

The proposed plan would also allow women with different types of coverage to receive the same benefits, at least for birth control.

“Most North Carolinians would agree that if you pay for health insurance, it ought to cover what you need,” said Adam Searing, director of the N.C. Health Access Coalition.

“If it’s a family planning method generally covered by private health care, then it should be covered under the new health care system,” he said.

But some conservative religious groups are opposed to drugs like the morning-after pill — which is classified as birth control by the Food and Drug Administration — being covered.

“In terms of the moral component, we’re talking about personal views, and individuals should make their own decisions about whether or not to have kids,” Searing said.

Contact the State & National Editor at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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