Health Insurers Must Provide Contraception To Women In All Its Forms At No Cost, Obama Orders

On Monday, President Obama's administration ordered health insurance companies to follow federal rules that require full coverage of women's birth control, The New York Times reported. A guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services said health insurance companies are required under the Affordable Care Act to cover at least one birth control from each of 18 methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration. But two separate studies released last month claimed that insurers were still charging women co-payments for their birth control and the insurers were not offering coverage on different types of contraceptives that they classified in the same categories.

For instance, the study from the National Women's Law Center showed that some health insurance plans were trying to exclude methods like the contraceptive ring because they covered another so-called "hormonal method" like the patch or the pill, the Times explained. But guess what? Under the provision of the Affordable Care Act that deals with birth control coverage, those kinds of exclusions are not allowed, because those two examples would be considered in separate categories (and hello, isn't most birth control "hormonal" in nature?).

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said Monday that the Obama administration was clarifying exactly what the rules are, The National Journal reported.

Tens of millions of women are eligible to receive coverage of recommended preventive services without having to pay a co-pay or deductible, including contraception.
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And, the Times reported, insurers also are required to cover genetic testing for the BRCA genes (think Angelina Jolie), which can predict the risks of developing breast or ovarian cancer for some women whose family histories include those illnesses.

Karen Ignagni, president of a group representing the insurance companies, told the Times that "health plans provide access to a wide range of contraceptive options as required under federal law." However, she added, insurers were within their rights to use "reasonable management techniques" to control costs.

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If you're wondering how this affects the Hobby Lobby ruling, you're not alone. The Supreme Court ruled last June in a 5-4 decision that Hobby Lobby and other small companies could not be forced to provide employees with contraception coverage if it violated the company owners' religious beliefs. According to The Wall Street Journal, the contraception rule that the HHS referenced on Monday is indeed the same section of the ACA that was involved in the Hobby Lobby ruling. However, Monday's guidance doesn't specifically deal with the issue of religious beliefs and contraception, so it remains to be seen how this all will play out.

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