Clarifying the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate
When the Affordable Care Act says a service should be free, that’s exactly what it means: free. Zip. Zero. Nada.
But that’s not how some insurers have been interpreting the Act’s contraceptive mandate. Some women have complained that their insurers weren’t covering their birth control. These complaints were backed up by reports from the National Women’s Law Center and Kaiser Family Foundation, which found that many insurers weren’t providing no-cost birth control for all prescription methods. (One study looked at 20 insurance carriers in five states and found that almost all the plans limited access to some forms of birth control in some way, either by not covering them at all or by charging a copay.)
The Obama administration, in an effort to clear up confusion about the mandate, said Monday that health plans must offer for free at least one of every type of prescription birth control.
“Today’s guidance seeks to eliminate any ambiguity,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell. “Insurers must cover without cost-sharing at least one form of contraception in each of the methods that the Food and Drug Administration has identified, including the ring, the patch and intrauterine devices.”
The law requires preventive services, including well-woman visits and contraception, be covered without out-of-pocket expenses, such as a deductible or co-pay.
Sec. Burwell also said insurance companies must provide genetic testing and counseling for women with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes in their families—which can give carriers up to an 85 percent lifetime risk of developing breast or ovarian cancers—as well as preventive services to transgender people.
Plans have until July to implement the policy, which generally will not take effect until a new plan year begins. For most people, that means January.