OMG: Score Copay-Free Birth Control, Starting Today
Posted by Katie Ostoich on August 1, 2012 at 10:17 AM
All our neighborhood pharmacists better get ready! Today, an important provision of the Affordable Care Act kicks in that many women will welcome with open arms, something the government is calling Affordable Access to Preventative Care, but that you can think of as No Copay Day. It’s a magical day when you no longer have to pay for birth control or breast exams or ladyparts-related health care. Sounds great right?
I bet you’re thinking, how can I get a piece of that action? Well, here’s how it affects you.
First, the good news: thanks to the Affordable Care Act, seven categories of medical services American women once had to pay for will no longer require a copay — that means that your insurance policy will cover the entire cost of the services. And some of the things that women in the past may have foregone — domestic violence counseling and cervical cancer screening, for example — will be covered in an effort to remove financial barriers between women and they care they may need. In addition, starting August 1st, new insurance plans are required to cover the cost of birth control (including condoms and tube-tying), breastfeeding supplies, enhanced STI screening, gestational diabetes screening, and, just for good measure, an annual well woman doctor visit. This is still sounding pretty awesome right? I know I’m pretty pumped.
But as with everything, there is red tape — on August 1st, you can't just burst into your nearest medical provider's office and demand some free diagnostic cervical scraping. And there won’t be giant Trick Or Treat bowls of birth control in your nearest pharmacy.
The not-so-good news: if you're not already covered by insurance — either through your employer, your spouse's employer, your parent's employer, or your academic institution — you won't suddenly have coverage today. The copay free preventative care requirements only apply to plans — both new and/or re-enrolled — that begin on or after today. And if your insurance plan is through a religious institution, the rule may not apply to you for another year, if at all. Further, uninsured ladies who aren't on Medicaid will have to wait until 2014, when the Affordable Care Act requires everyone to either have insurance or pay a penalty, to access the same services at no up-front cost.
So the first thing you need to do is figure out when your insurance plan year begins. Most employer plan years start on January 1st, but I bet your HR would love to field your questions today. Ha. But good news for some of you, many health care plans from colleges or universities start on August 1st, aka, today. So if you’re in school or have coverage as an alumni, you’re golden!
Our verdict: OMG! Despite all the red tape and flaws (which you can read over here), this is a great step forward for public health and our general sanity. Please, look into taking advantage of these benefits ladies! But you know, as Erin Gloria Ryan says for Jezebel, “We also should be wary of people who opt to abuse the system — after all, now that getting lactation counseling is free for mothers who want it, who's to say that women won't just schedule hundreds of lactation counseling appointments for themselves? And what of all the recreational gestational diabetes screenings that are about to occur?”
How do you feel about these new health care benefits? Will you use them?