Last February, law student Sandra Fluke made national headlines when she spoke before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee regarding the lack of accessibility to contraception for women. Fluke rallied for all insurance companies to cover free contraception, as contraception can be too expensive to purchase with the co-pay, even if religiously affiliated employers and institutions object to such coverage. Almost six months later on Aug. 1, the government enacted a plan to cover contraception without charging.The new mandate is part of the Affordable Care Act, which covers birth control, as well as seven other co-pay-free women’s preventive care services. Services include annual well-woman doctor visits, diabetes testing for pregnant women, HPV testing, sexually transmitted disease counseling, breast feeding support and domestic violence counseling.
According to a news release by the Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 47 million women are now covered by their health plans and can receive these free services.
“Women, not insurance companies, can now make health decisions that will keep them healthy, catch potentially serious conditions at an earlier state, and protect them and their families from crushing medical bills,” the news release stated.
However, not all women have access to the free women’s health services yet.
Certain religiously affiliated institutions such as the Roman Catholic Church were granted a one-year exemption from providing free contraception, but must provide insurance offering the other health services. The Obama administration plans to find a compromise that will give women the protection they need that also adheres to the Roman Catholic Church’s beliefs.
Women who bought or renewed their private insurance plans before Aug. 1 must wait for the services until they can renew their plans again. Although all forms of contraception are covered, the generic forms approved by the Food and Drug Administration will most likely be offered instead of the costly brandname birth control.