In his latest attack on women's healthcare, President Donald Trump announced Friday, Oct. 6 that his administration will end the Obama-era requirement guaranteeing free contraception coverage. If you're wondering if your birth control will still be free, here's how to talk to your boss to find out. With the advent of the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama ushered in a mandate that required all health insurance, including employer-sponsored plans, to cover birth control unless the employer is a church or other religious organization.
Mandatory birth control coverage includes barrier methods, like diaphragms and sponges; hormonal methods, like birth control pills and vaginal rings; IUDs; emergency contraception, like Plan B; sterilization procedures; and patient education and counseling without a co-pay or co-insurance, according to the website Healthcare.gov. Trump's decision brings back moral exemptions and accommodations for coverage of certain preventive services, which means your boss can decide whether or not to cover your birth control based on their religious or moral beliefs.
Back in 2014 when this issue went before the Supreme Court, Planned Parenthood created guidelines for those who might need to talk to their employers about covering their birth control after a judge ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, which claimed providing employees with birth control went against the company's religious beliefs. The ruling allowed other companies to apply for similar exemptions based on religion. Since then at least 45 companies from myriad industries — which run the gamut from less than 50 employees to more than 1,000 employees — in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors have applied for exemption from providing birth control to employees, the Center for American Progress reported.
While Planned Parenthood's guidelines are more relevant now than ever before, for many women, transgender and non-binary people who rely on birth control it's not that simple. Dr. Lauren Streicher, associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, calls the decision to revoke free access to birth control, "A disturbing example of a trend to disrupt and dismantle women's access to healthcare."
And, she tells Bustle that for those who work for large umbrella corporations that own smaller companies in different states, direct managers don't actually get to make decisions about employee healthcare. "I don't think most people have any idea how many employers won't provide contraception," Dr. Streicher says. "In a big corporation, your boss is not necessarily someone you can go up to and say, 'This is my personal story.'"
If you do work for a small company, and you can approach your employer, these six suggestions can help prepare you for the conversation. If not, there are other ways to fight back.
1. Write Down Talking Points
The Hill reported that, "Officials said that employers will only be required to inform their employees if they decide not to cover birth control under their healthcare plan and will not need to file paperwork with the government."
Even if you think you work for a progressive company, don't leave it to chance and assume your birth control will still be covered. If you have an HR department, that's a good place to have your conversation if you don't feel comfortable talking to your boss directly. "If you work for a large company, HR may be more influential with healthcare and benefits decisions than your boss, so consider talking to HR as well as or instead of your boss," Nicole Wood, CEO of career-coaching company Ama La Vida, tells Bustle.
I know that it's offensive that you even have to have a conversation about your employers' right to control your body, but sadly this is what's happening. If you know other people at your company who feel the same way, you can prepare a written group statement to share with your boss and HR department, or ask for a group meeting.
If you have to go it alone, it might feel more intimidating, but that does not make your rights to your body any less important. If you opt for an in-person meeting, make sure to write down talking points ahead of time in case you get flustered (I mean who wouldn't?).
2. Timing Is Important
As with most things in life, timing is everything. While you might want to charge into the HR office right now, that's probably not the best tactic. "As with any important or difficult conversation, make sure you catch your boss at a good time," Wood recommends.
"Don't just grab your boss in the hall or when they aren't completely focused. Schedule time with them (preferably not at lunch time when people are hungry and more on edge) so you know you have their full attention. This will likely be an uncomfortable conversation for them too so ensure you schedule the conversation in a way that you can set yourself up to have the most productive discussion possible."
3. Leverage Facts & Share Your Feelings
Let your HR representative or your boss know that access to birth control greatly improves the health of both women and their families, and birth control has a positive impact on women's lives. Planned Parenthood reported that, according to a Guttmacher study, a majority of women said that birth control use had allowed them to take better care of themselves or their families, support themselves financially, complete their education, or keep or get a job .
Additionally, another study by the Guttmacher Institute found that the rate of unintended pregnancies dropped to the lowest level in 30 years between 2008 and 2011, most likely due to increases in the use of contraception, NBC News reported.
What's more, over 30 percent of birth control prescribed, including IUDs, is used for non-contraceptive reasons, Dr. Streicher says. And, claiming that birth control is optional healthcare is akin to calling cancer treatment optional. Women use birth control for everything from migraines to endometriosis to easing polycystic ovarian syndrome to lowering the risk of cervical cancer, and more.
Aside from being good for your health, and decreasing unwanted pregnancies, birth control is also an economic issue. A 2010 study revealed that more than one-third of female voters noted that they struggled to afford birth control, according to Planned Parenthood. If it's not covered by insurance, birth control can costs patients between hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year.
Now that your boss has the facts, it's perfectly OK to let them know how you feel about your right to basic healthcare, Wood tells Bustle. "You can calmly explain why this decision is important to you and that this impacts you personally."
4. Ask For An Open Dialogue With Employees
If after your conversation with your boss or HR department they say they aren't sure what they are going to do, and they are actually the people who are making the decision, invite them to engage in an open dialogue with employees about the benefits of birth control.
You can also read these stories about how women benefit from birth control to help arm yourself with more information, Planned Parenthood advised. If you feel comfortable, consider sharing one of the stories aloud during your meeting, or send it as a pre-read, so your company is aware of how birth control helps millions of women live better lives.
5. If Your Coverage Is Ending
If your company decides to end birth control coverage, you can find out how to get alternative coverage or birth control at a reduced cost from Planned Parenthood. You can also add your name and comments to this ACLU petition as the ACLU announced they will be suing over the decision to allow employers to opt out of birth control coverage. In fact, we should all do this anyways.
Adding your comments to the conversation is important because, "The rule must go through a public comment process — which means that we have a key moment to raise our voices and make this rule so toxic that they have to drop it," the ACLU stated.
Dr. Streicher recommends taking proactive steps while you still have coverage. For example, if you've been thinking about getting an IUD, and you're a good candidate for this option, now is the time to do it because, "no matter what happens they can't take it out of you," she says.
Additionally, the New York Times reported that some states have passed laws that can protect you by mandating that employers cover birth control under state law.
6. If You're Still Covered
If your company does not plan to interfere with your reproductive rights, thank them for supporting your basic healthcare rights. Planned Parenthood also suggests asking your company to notify employees (they are not required to do so) that there will not be any change to their healthcare policies so everyone can breathe a sigh of relief.