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Free Birth Control Coverage At Risk Under New Changes To Obamacare Mandates

President Donald Trump is set to rally in Southwest Ohio this week.
Andy Chow
/
Ohio Public Radio

Around 62 million women nationwide gained access to no-cost birth control as a result of Affordable Care Act mandates.

More than two million women in Ohio are eligible for that coverage, which pays for contraception, including expensive IUDs.

Now, women with free birth control coverage through some employer-based or university health plans may be at risk of losing that benefit.

That's because new Trump administration rules, that took immediate effect October 6, allow more employers to opt out of Affordable Care Act preventive-care mandates covering contraception, if they object on moral or religious grounds.

The so-called interim final rule was part of a directive earlier this year by the Trump administration asking agencies to take another look at the rules around the ACA mandated birth control benefit.

Estimates vary in the hundreds of thousands on exactly how many women risk losing their free contraceptive coverage. 

 

In announcing the changes, the Trump administration said there’s no government interest in ensuring coverage of birth control.

In one year alone, women saved more than $1.4 billion on birth control pills as a result of mandated coverage through the ACA, also known as Obamacare, according to a study by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

“We estimate that the ACA is saving the average pill user $255 per year, and the average woman receiving an IUD is saving $248. Spread over an estimated 6.88 million privately insured oral contraceptive users in the United States, consumer annual contribution to spending on the pill could be reduced by almost $1.5 billion annually,” said the study's lead author Nora V. Becker, an MD/PhD candidate in the Perelman School of Medicine and the department of Health Care Management and Economics in the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Read an FAQ about the new rules from NPR News. 

Attorney Mara Gandal-Powers, senior counsel with the National Women's Law Center, says access to contraception has broad economic ripple effects. 

“This is healthcare that facilitates women living their lives, to finish school, to get a first job, to go for the promotion and to be able to say, I'm going to have children when I want to, and when it lines up with my plans and with my family's plans.”

Gandal-Powers says planned pregnancies have better birth outcomes, one reason she says preventive contraception coverage was mandated by the ACA in the first place.   

"We want to improve birth outcomes," she says. "We want to reduce the rate of unintended pregnancies increase the rate of intended pregnancies and help people have healthy babies and that's that's a huge part of this."

 
The National Women's Law Center is among a group of organizations and states that are challenging the new rules, alleging they discriminate against women.

"The birth control benefit is extremely popular, and folks think it should be included in employer insurance coverage. People understand that if you're cutting a health benefit that just women use that's discriminatory - male employees are going to be getting health insurance that meets their needs. And women employees will not. And that's discriminatory," she says.

The Associated Press reports Catholic leaders from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have cheered the Trump administration's changes to birth control coverage mandates.

The federal government is collecting public comment on the birth control rule changes until December 5, through a website. People can also comment via regular mail.   

For assistance understanding changes to your health insurance birth control coverage, contact The National Women's Law Center, here.