Today, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts heralded recommendations from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to recognize contraception as well as sexual health counseling and screenings to be essential preventive care that insurance plans must cover at no cost to women. This action comes just four months after the Board of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority eliminated co-pays for family planning under Commonwealth Care, a subsidized program that provides insurance coverage for nearly 160,000 lower-income Massachusetts residents.
“Kudos to the Institute of Medicine — and the Connector Board before it — for recognizing what research, medicine, and life-experience already tell us: No-cost birth control is a no-brainer that helps to prevent unintended pregnancy and protect against disease,” said Andrea Miller, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts. “This common sense, cost-effective move is especially heartening given the deeply troubling trends across the nation, where cynical politicians are using economic crisis as a smokescreen to attack family planning and pull back from their commitment to make health care more affordable.”
“Despite the challenging economic and political climate, Massachusetts continues to lead the way on promoting access to quality, affordable health care, and we call on policymakers and insurers to move swiftly to adopt the IOMs recommendations,” Miller continued.
As of last September, federal health reform required insurers to eliminate co-pays for preventive health services in new insurance plans. While Congress clearly meant this to encompass basic women’s health services, including birth control, the federal law was not sufficiently explicit on the matter so an IOM panel was convened to make recommendations. Now, the Department of Health of Human Services (HHS) must act to adopt these recommendations and require coverage of these services with no co-pay from all insurers.
In November, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts joined NARAL Pro-Choice America and its state affiliates in urging the IOM to explicitly recognize family-planning care, including contraception, as a preventive-health service requiring no co-pays under the Affordable Care Act. The testimony cited the strong medical consensus supporting this move and the overwhelming evidence that covering family planning at no cost is also cost effective and good business practice. Perhaps most important, studies show that one in three women has struggled with the cost of prescription birth control — and even a small cost-sharing requirement can put contraception out of reach.
NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts is the state’s leading advocate for privacy and a woman’s right to choose.