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Birth Control: "Preventive" Health Care or Not?

October 29, 2010

NEW HAVEN, Conn.- Most women spend about 30 years of their lives using birth control, and that fact is part of the basis of a study being undertaken by the Institute of Medicine to help decide if prescription methods of birth control can be considered preventive care, and thus be eligible for purchase without a co-pay.

Susan Yolen, vice president of New Haven-based Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, says the study will consider methods such as pills, IUDs, and patches for such coverage, but not over-the-counter methods. Planned Parenthood is asking women to speak out in favor of the coverage.

"The notion behind this project is to say that birth control is such a good investment under health care reform that it really should be covered without cost-sharing altogether."

A recent Planned Parenthood poll shows 81 percent of all women respondents agree that birth control is preventive care. Among Republican women it was 72 percent, among Catholic women it was 77 percent, and among young women it was 85 percent.

Yolen says Connecticut was ahead of the curve in one respect.

"We did pass a law in 1999 that said that for those with commercial insurance, if your plan covered prescriptions of any kind, it needed to cover prescription contraception, so there was that parity."

But it didn't end co-pays, which she notes can add up to thousands of dollars over the decades women need birth control.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT