Not every biz will have to cover birth control

Health insurance plans must cover birth control as preventive care for women, with no co-pays, the Obama administration said recently in a decision with far-reaching implications for health care as well as social mores. — AP PHOTO/PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS, FILE

Opinions differ whether or not the Obama Administration’s Affordable Health Care Act should provide birth control without women having to provide a co-pay. This law will require that businesses must cover birth control as preventive care for female employees.

This is, however, one notable exemption. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the rules do not require religion-based employers to pay for birth control coverage. Four sets of criteria are used by HHS to determine which companies get exemptions; otherwise contraception is covered.

“Not doing it would be like not covering flu shots,” Sebelius said.

Maggie Leigh Groff, vice president for external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania said women who are on Medicare and those who with their select programs already have financial assistance are eligible. Women in the sliding gap and those who receive Medicaid will also get financial coverage.

“Birth control is a basic health care,” Groff said. “We know 99 percent (of American women) use contraception.”

Director of the Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Steve Bozza said the Catholic Church supports health care but does not think that the church should have to pay for something they speak against in principle. He said if someone wants to take birth control, that’s her personal choice; he just does not believe the church should be asked to pay for it.

“Catholic hospitals are widespread. We welcome anyone for service. We want to expand health care,” Bozza added, “but don’t ask us to pay for it. It’s a matter of human rights.”

“It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough,” said Jeanne Monahan, a policy expert for the conservative Family Research Council.

It may not cover all faith-based organizations, she said.

In a recent panel discussion, which included Sebelius, panel chairwoman Linda Rosenstock, Dean of Public Health at UCLA, said that the legislation is for the overall health of women.

“Over a span of generations from grandmothers to granddaughters, we have come from birth control being a hope and a wish — and almost luck — to being recognized as a part of health care that improves women’s health,” said Cynthia Pearson of National Women’s Health Network, an advocacy group supporting change.

There’s more to preventing pregnancy than the Affordable Health Care Act and Women’s Health. Other preventive health care services that fall under the act: one annual visit to the gynecologist per year; pregnancy diabetes screening; cervical cancer screening for women over 30 years of age; HIV counseling and screening; domestic violence counseling; annual counseling for sexually active women; devices for breast feeding mothers, and the cost of renting them.

One anonymous woman said she needs birth control. She said she already has four children she can barely take care of, and health care is one of the areas she struggles with. Another woman said that it was not until she started taking birth control that her menstrual cycle stabilized. In addition to these women, one said she could remember a time when insurance companies would charge a co-pay.

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