Health Insurance Companies Are Illegally Charging for Birth Control


One of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act is that birth control methods — be it pill, patch, shot, ring — are supposed to be covered by insurance companies without a co-pay or other charges. But two studies from the National Women’s Law Center have found that many insurance companies are still charging for birth control, exploiting loopholes that may take years to close.

In two “State of Coverage” reports, which you can read here, the NWLC found that many major insurers are ignoring the ACA’s new rule that FDA-approved birth control methods should be covered without a co-pay. Insurers do things like putting all hormonal birth control methods together into one category, then pay for just one or two of them. Others don’t cover sterilization, although it’s an approved birth control method that some women might choose, or impose arbitrary age limits, refusing to cover birth control for women over 50. (Which raises the question: do they think women are continuing to take birth control after 50 for the hell of it? Presumably they’re doing it because they can still get pregnant and would rather not.)

The NWLC also found that insurers are putting odd limits on things like maternity leave and breastfeeding supplies, things that are also supposed to be well-covered under the ACA. (Those odd limits include things like refusing to cover more than one ultrasound for a pregnant person; most people get at least two, possibly more if there are complications.)

Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group, told the New York Times that actually women love paying for their birth control when they’re not supposed to have to anymore. Ignagni told the Times the report presented a “distorted” view of reality, adding, “Health plans provide access to care for millions of women each day and receive high marks in customer satisfaction surveys.”

The issue isn’t just birth control: the report found that health insurers are also illegally excluding transition-related medical care for transgender people from their plans and illegally charging women for preventative services like “well woman” exams. The insurers claim they’re using “reasonable management techniques,” which they’re entitled to do under the law. It’ll probably take years of scoldings from a variety of federal agencies before they cut it out.

Planned Parenthood is particularly furious, as the nation’s single largest healthcare provider for women. In a press release, PPFA President Cecil Richards said, “It’s unacceptable that women are still being denied insurance coverage for birth control, well-woman visits, and pregnancy-related care. This violates federal law and we call on the Obama administration to take immediate steps to ensure these women get the health care they need and deserve.”

Image via Shutterstock

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