Health care plans should cover birth control, STD screening, HPV testing, and other services for women without co-pays, according to an independent panel of doctors from the Institute of Medicine (IOM). President Obama’s new health care reform requires “preventative care” services be covered and the Obama administration asked that the IOM assess which services fell under this category.
According to the IOM report [PDF], their eight recommendations for coverage include: “the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity”; HPV testing as part of cervical cancer screening for women over 30; counseling on STDs; counseling and screening for HIV; lactation counseling and equipment to promote breast-feeding; screening for gestational diabetes; screening and counseling to detect and prevent domestic violence; and annual preventive care visits. Including these services are integral for women to “better avoid unwanted pregnancies and space their pregnancies to promote optimal birth outcomes” as a key method of preventative care, the IOM report said.
No co-pays for your Nuva Ring and HPV testing? Preventing pregnancy until you and your boo are ready to be parents? Sweet, right!? Alas, not everyone is so thrilled.
According to the blog Reproductive Health Reality Check, groups like the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; the Family Research Council, a Christian lobbying organization founded by James Dobson; and Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion group, are already rallying the troops. They object to the coverage of birth control and, if they don’t advocate for it to be banned from coverage entirely, will likely argue that individuals should be able to opt-out. The morning-after pill is also under attack. As RH Reality Check notes, the FRC’s response to the report warned that now “health plans will be required to cover drugs that can prevent implantation, such as Plan B, and even the new drug, ella, that, chemically like RU-486, can destroy implanted embryos.”
Conflating the morning-after pill (Plan B and ella) with the abortion pill (RU-486 ) is sleazy. These pills all do different things — namely, two prevent a pregnancy and one terminates a pregnancy. (You can read in depth about ella, which was approved by the FDA last August, here.) People who oppose the use of contraceptives may see no distinction between various pregnancy-thwarters. But that doesn’t make it ethical to conflate dissimilar medications for the sake of politics. And the underlying scare tactic in all of this is ZOMG WE’RE GOING TO HAVE TO PAY FOR ABORTIONS!!! which — wrong again! — we will not.
The other crappy opposition talking point will be “I don’t want to pay to subsidize your sex life!” Because, you know, if people can’t afford the costs of birth control, they will just abstain from sex entirely. (That’s sarcasm, obvs.) As recently as last week, a legislator in New Hampshire justified his vote to de-fund Planned Parenthood in the state with the callous comment, “I am opposed to abortion. I am opposed to providing condoms to someone. If you want to have a party, have a party but don’t ask me to pay for it.” It seems that instead of paying for the “party” of preventing unwanted pregnancy, this legislator would rather pay for the “party” of caring for the unwanted children whom their parents may not be able to care for.
So what happens next? The Department of Health and Human Services is expected to take the report’s suggestions into consideration when it issues guidelines on the health care law going into effect in 2014. According to CNN, a decision on the matter by HHS could happen as soon as August. This most certainly means the summer and possibly fall will be filled with full-frontal attacks on women’s health care. Whether you believe all the IOM’s recommendations should be implemented, or just some of them, keep your eyes open, ladies. Now is the time when our politicians — men and women — will show how they truly feel about us.
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