Obama Administration’s New Rule: Insurance Companies Must Cover Birth Control

If the Food and Drug Administration has approved a type of prescription contraception, then insurers must cover at least one option at no cost to the consumer. | BSIP/Science Source

If the Food and Drug Administration has approved a type of prescription contraception, then insurers must cover at least one option at no cost to the consumer. | BSIP/Science Source

Insurance companies will now be required to provide women with free birth control under the Affordable Care Act if their employers opt out of providing them with this coverage on religious grounds.

The Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) passed the rule on Friday, ensuring that women will be able to get birth control for free regardless of their employers’ religious exemptions.

Under the Affordable Care Act, women are entitled to “preventive care and screenings provided … including all Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved contraceptives, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for women with reproductive capacity, as prescribed by a health care provider.”

In other words, health-insurance companies are required to cover the costs of anything falling under the category of “contraceptive services.”

Employers providing their workers with health insurance were required to cover the costs of these contraceptive services, too, until the Supreme Court ruled last year in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. that an employer had the right to refuse its female employees coverage if doing so conflicted with its religious beliefs.

But, as Justice Alito wrote in the decision, the court did not hold “that an insurance coverage mandate must necessarily fall” if an employer claimed religious exemption.

Because the mandate itself was not outlawed, insurance companies will now take responsibility for the costs of all contraceptive services not covered by religiously exempt employers.

Here is the list of contraceptive methods that are now fully covered. Insurers must cover at least one type of birth control in each of these 18 categories:

  1. sterilization surgery for women
  2. surgical sterilization implant for women
  3. implantable rod
  4. IUD copper
  5. IUD with progestin
  6. shot/injection
  7. oral contraceptives (combined pill)
  8. oral contraceptives (progestin only)
  9. oral contraceptives extended/continuous use
  10. patch
  11. vaginal contraceptive ring
  12. diaphragm
  13. sponge
  14. cervical cap
  15. female condom
  16. spermicide
  17. emergency contraception (Plan B/Plan B One Step/Next Choice)
  18. emergency contraception (Ella)

The new government statement also clarifies that insurers must cover preventive services for transgender people when such services are medically appropriate, anesthesia services during preventive colonoscopies, and preventive screening for mutations in the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 gene.

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