This month a panel of experts will begin meeting with federal officials to determine which preventive measures for women will be covered by insurance at no cost to the patient under the new health care laws passed in March 2010. Although not fully in effect until 2014, the provisions of the law calling on insurers to cover certain aspects of preventive medicine with no co-pays and deductibles are already in force.
The issue of whether or not to cover contraception is at the heart of these talks and will likely become a public debate on morality given the fact that health care reform itself was almost imploded by the issue of using federal funds for abortions. Dr. David Grimes, an international expert in family planning and a professor at the University of North Carolina was quoted in an article by Richard Alonso-Zaldivar for the Associated Press, “Contraception Could Be Free Under Health Care Law.”
“There is clear and incontrovertible evidence that family planning saves lives and improves health,” said Grimes, who is an obstetrician-gynecologist. “Contraception rivals immunization in dollars saved for every dollar invested. Spacing out children allows for optimal pregnancies and optimal child rearing. Contraception is a prototype of preventive medicine.”
John Hass, the president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, presented the opposing view in the same article. “We don’t consider it [contraception] to be health care, but a lifestyle choice. We think there are other ways to avoid having children than by ingesting chemicals paid for by health insurance.”
According to a report in summer 2010 by the National Center for Health Statistics, the use of birth control in the United States is “virtually universal,” with almost 93 million prescriptions for contraceptives filled in 2009. At many stores, generic versions of “the pill,” sell for as little as $9 for a month’s supply. However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, more than 50% of all pregnancies in this country are still unplanned.