Here’s the sad truth: Even though activists around the country put a stop to the Trump administration’s first attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (a/k/a Obamacare), on health care, as on so many other important issues, we’re nowhere near out of the woods yet. Not by a long shot.
What Trump and anti-women’s health members of Congress couldn’t accomplish in one big push, they’re trying to make happen in smaller ones. Health Department Secretary Tom Price has a record of attacking reproductive health care guarantees. Price opposed the benefit that requires insurance companies to cover birth control without copays when he was a Congressman. Furthermore, media accounts report the administration is considering altering or even eliminating the birth control benefit. What does it all add up to? We expect the administration to go after the ACA’s birth control benefit soon. But requiring private plans to cover birth control without any additional costs is wildly popular with the American public, 91% of Democrats like them; so do 83% of Republicans.
The big take-away here? Be ready. Stay ready.
Here’s What’s at Stake
Affordable Birth Control Access
Under the ACA, insurers have to provide all forms of FDA-approved birth control with no copay — including pills, IUDs, injectables, implants, patches, barrier methods, tubal ligation, and emergency contraception. More than 55 million women, including 17 million Latinas and 15 million African Americans, have gained access to no-copay birth control because of the ACA.
Women’s Financial Security
The birth control benefit saved pill users an average of $255 a year and saved IUD users $248 per year. Without this benefit, birth control pills can cost as much as $600 a year; IUDs and other methods can cost up to $1,000. It’s no wonder that prior to the ACA, about 55% of women ages 18-34 reported struggling with the cost of birth control at some point in their lives, and, as a result, used it inconsistently. All told, the birth control benefit has saved women $1.4 billion a year on pills alone since the ACA took effect.
Women’s Economic Advancement
Access to birth control has some mind-blowing, big-picture effects, too. In fact, it’s hard to overstate just how important access to birth control has been to the economic advancement of women in the United States. Social scientists have determined that about one-third of all the wage gains women have made since the 1960s are the result of access to birth control pills alone. Wow! And having access to the pill before age 21 is the single most important factor in helping women already in college stay in college through graduation, thereby increasing their job options and economic success.
Women’s Overall Health
More than half of all birth control pill users take them not just to prevent pregnancy, but also to treat medical conditions including endometriosis and ovarian cysts as well as helping to reduce menstrual pain and helping to regulate people’s cycles.
Fight to Protect Birth Control Coverage
Now that you understand just how crucial access to birth control is, your job is to protect it and the ACA from these attacks, just like you did so well against that first big effort.
Tell Secretary Price that Americans want the new administration and the new Congress to protect full insurance coverage for birth control, with no copay. That step alone won’t get us out of the forest. But together with other steps, it will move our country in the right direction, for sure.