Wednesday, February 8, 2012

FACTCHECK:The truth about insurance coverage of contraceptives

The Catholic Church and Republicans are pushing a lot of lies and distortions concerning the Heath and Human Services (HHS) mandate for non-religious employers and religious organizations engaged in non-religious businesses to provide women contraceptive coverage in employer health insurance plans.  Here are two sites that provide the facts about current state-regulation of this issue.  Please direct your Catholic and Republican friends to these sites so that they can become better informed.

The CDD says contraceptive coverage is an important health benefit for women:

Contraceptive use in the United States is virtually universal among women of reproductive age: 98 percent of all women who had ever had intercourse had used at least one contraceptive method. In 2002, 90 percent had ever had a partner who used the male condom, 82 percent had ever used the oral contraceptive pill, and 56 percent had ever had a partner who used withdrawal.
The leading method of contraception in the United States in 2002 was the oral contraceptive pill. It was being used by 11.6 million women 15–44 years of age; it had ever been used by 44.5 million women 15–44 years of age. The second leading method was female sterilization, used by 10.3 million women. The pill and female sterilization have been the two leading methods in the United States since 1982.

The Kaiser Family Foundation says most women want and need coverage and depend upon employer-based coverage:

Insurance coverage of oral contraceptives has received greater attention in recent years. Nearly 59 million women in the U.S. are of “reproductive age,” between 16 and 44 years old1. The majority of these women are at risk for unintended pregnancy and use some form of contraception. Employer-based coverage is the primary form of health insurance for 64% of women of reproductive age, but a sizable minority of women lack coverage for contraceptives.

More than half of all states currently require employers and insurance providers to provide coverage of approved contraceptive drugs and devices.

28 states require insurers that cover prescription drugs to provide coverage of the full range of FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices.  The Guttmacher Institute provides a summary of state provisions here:

The National Conference of State Legislatures provides similar information in an earlier report here:

The Catholic Church/Republican charges are NOT SUPPORTED by facts of the HHS mandate
Here is a summary of the facts about the mandate from HHS as compiled by TruthOut:

Under the Affordable Care Act, employers and private insurance providers will be required to provide reproductive preventative services, including birth control and other contraceptives, to women who choose to use them. The services are free of charge at the point of service and provided without co-pays, deductibles and cost-shares.

Nonprofit organizations that "primarily" exist to spread their religious values and primarily serve and employ people who share those values are exempt from the rule. This means that churches and houses of worship are exempt, but religiously affiliated schools and hospitals that serve and employ people of different faiths are not exempt.

Officials said that some parochial schools could qualify for the exemption if they exist to teach religion and primarily serve and employ fellow believers.

The rule applies only with private health insurance and does not require individual practitioners to provide contraceptive.

Most women use contraceptives in their lifetime, including 98 percent of Catholic women. (Meanwhile, 100 percent of Catholic bishops are men.) The average woman uses contraceptives for 30 years of her life at a cost of $30 to $50 per month.

The policy does not cover drugs that cause abortion, such as RU-486.

Twenty-eight states already require contraceptive coverage. North Carolina, New York and California have identical religious exemption standards and other states have no exemptions at all.

There is no list of specific institutions that are exempt but institutions must meet the above requirements. There is no application for the exemption, and an institution must use the requirements to evaluate itself and then notify its insurance provider that it is exempt.

Administration officials said they are working with states on enforcing the rule.

After taking public comments, the administration decided to give some religious nonprofits, including those that employ people of other faiths, one year to comply with the rule.

The only reason we are having this debate is that most Americans depend upon their employer for access to affordable health insurance coverage.  If we had a single-payer universal health insurance system, like Medicare for all, then there would be no issue.

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