#HandsOffMyBC: What you need to know about the new birth control rules
Social media is buzzing with news that our current Administration has given U.S. employers and insurers power to deny women birth control coverage based on moral and religious objections. Any employer—including private universities that offer student health plans—can stop offering coverage for some or all methods of contraception if they object for moral or religious reasons.
Since most of us pay for insurance plans with our employers, this is kind of a big deal. These new rules mean you’ll continue to pay your premium plus all costs for your birth control method if your employer has objections. Without coverage, the pill can cost up to $113 a month, and an IUD can cost up to $800.
How did we get here?
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), birth control is one of several preventive services for women. This means insurance plans are required to cover all FDA-approved birth control methods with no additional out-of-pocket costs (like copays).
Churches and other houses of worship were exempt from this requirement, but religious nonprofits and certain for-profit businesses who objected got a compromise called an accommodation. This accommodation allowed them to opt out of paying for birth control while ensuring their employees still got birth control coverage without copays. The accommodation seemed awesome for everyone involved, but many religious institutions still objected.
So what changed?
On October 6, 2017, new regulations made it easy for almost any employer to opt out of providing birth control coverage based on religious or moral objections. No one is sure how many employers are going to take advantage of these exemptions. The employers that were using the accommodation may switch to exemptions, and employers that previously had not objected could now get an exemption. Others may decide to cover some but not all of birth control methods. No matter how many people are affected, one thing is clear: this will make birth control even less accessible.
What does this mean for your coverage?
It’s hard to predict how many employers will choose not to cover some or all methods of contraception. But if you live in California, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New York, or Oregon then you’re in luck. These states have laws protecting the requirement to cover birth control at no copay. Other states have laws requiring insurance plans to cover at least some methods, but these laws can have religious exemptions as well. If you suspect you’re in danger of losing birth control coverage, you’ll want to look out for any messages from your insurance provider that mention changes in your coverage. You can also call your insurance company directly and ask if these new rules will affect your plan. The regulations are effective immediately, but your employer might not take advantage right away. You’ll want to follow up with your insurance company more than once. If you’ve been on the fence about getting a long-term method like an IUD, now might be the time to consider it.
If you’re currently paying out-of-pocket costs for birth control, contact CoverHer, a service run by the National Women’s Law Center to ensure that you’re not paying unnecessary contraceptive costs.
Even if you’re not in danger of losing coverage, lend your voice to the fight because everyone deserves access to the most effective forms of birth control.
What can we do to fight this?
Here’s the good news: all new rules have something called a comment period where you can formally share your concerns. As several states and organizations gear up to fight this on legal grounds, lending your voice via public comment is super important because it bolsters the argument that these new rules are bad for women’s health. Legal teams will have evidence that real people are against these regulations.
Registering a comment is a bit complicated, but we’ve teamed up with KeepBCFree.com to make it easy for you. You can do it in less than 5 minutes. The comment period runs through December 5, 2017. Be sure to get your friends to comment too.
It’s going to take all of our voices to make sure birth control remains accessible for all. For even more ways to get involved, check out our activation toolkit. And remember to join us for Thanks, Birth Control Day on November 15th. We’ll use the hashtag #ThxBirthControl to join the conversation online (and in real life) about what birth control makes possible for women everywhere.