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ACA & Women

Birth Control Still not Free. IOM Myth Busted

Now a week old, the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) recommendations on Women’s preventative care set off a firestorm of news stories labeling birth control as a now completely free and 100% accessible resource to all people.  As is usually the case, when something is too good to be true, it typically is.  So let’s consider the question, how much does this “free birth control” really cost?

The IOM’s recommendations state that as a preventative service, birth control should be accessible to all people without a co-pay.  Two things stand out here, firstly that even though the IOM is suggesting that birth control be offered without a co-pay, that most certainly does not mean it is free.  Secondly, “free” birth control will only be available to those women who have insurance.  Obtaining birth control in this manner still involves being covered  and paying for an insurance plan that may require a $500 deductible and can still cost around $197 a month.  While eventually under the Affordable Care Act everyone will be held responsible for buying insurance, there will still be people who remain uncovered, including undocumented citizens.  These marginalized members of our society are unfortunately those who need this coverage the most, and of course those for whom it is least accessible.

While what we are saying here is in no-way meant to downgrade the monumental importance of the IOM’s recommendations, we do mean to draw a little sobriety into the discourse.  Free and accessible birth control for all women who want it must be a long-term goal for all those concerned with public health.  To take these recommendations, pat ourselves on the back and declare victory is a disservice to the people we advocate for and hands an undeserved token to the people who oppose birth control.  It’s ridiculous and untrue to conjure up an image of a government official standing on the street corner handing out packets of birth control to women. Let’s keep advocating for the Department of Health and Human Services to adopt and codify these recommendations for women’s preventative health care from the IOM so that eventually we can pat ourselves on the back for a job well-done.  For now though, we must continue to dedicate ourselves to such a worthy cause as affordable, accessible, and comprehensive reproductive health care for all.

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