Should All Health Insurers Cover Birth Control?

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A new report from The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that all health insurance plans begin fully covering contraceptives, sterilization, and reproductive education, CNN reports. However, this seemingly-simple recommendation is highly controversial.

Not surprisingly, Planned Parenthood is in favor of the IOM plan.

"Millions of women, especially young women, struggle every day to afford prescription birth control," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told CNN. "Today's recommendation brings us a step closer to ensuring that all newly insured women under the health care reform law will have access to prescription birth control without out-of-pocket expenses."

However, not everyone agrees. Some, like Jeanne Monahan, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, believe contraception shouldn’t be universally covered because of personal or religious objections.

"The overall question of mandating contraception, we believe that will inherently violate people's conscience rights," she said. "There are many people with conscience objections. They will be forced to pay insurance premiums which will ultimately cover these things that violate their conscience."

Monahan and those like her are particularly worried about emergency contraceptives like Ella and Plan B, contraceptives that are taken after sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancy. Monahan likens the two to “abortion drugs.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service plans to review The IOM’s recommendations, though it’s uncertain if they will follow the Institute’s advice. 

So should insurers cover contraceptives? At the very least, I am in favor of health insurance plans fully covering basic birth control pills as the cost of pregnancy is much higher than the cost of contraception. CNN reports that in 2002, the direct medical cost of unintended pregnancies in America was $5 billion. The IOM also estimates that contraceptives saved $19.3 billion that same year. I also think it’s dangerous to let the religious beliefs of a few dictate the coverage of many, not to mention that it’s impossible to design a health insurance plan that everyone will find morally acceptable.

What do you think?

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