Health Insurance And Family Planning
Private health insurance companies have been battling special interest groups and
legislation in recent years regarding their coverage of family planning services. One of the problems in obtaining necessary coverage for this area is the variance in the definition of comprehensive service.
Comprehensive family planning services is defined by lobbyists as including birth control medications, contraceptive injections, birth control patches, IUDs, rings, education, counseling, and the implantation of contraceptive devices. Private health insurance companies, on the other hand, often define their family planning services as comprehensive if they cover contraceptive medications and patches.
With such a huge divide in definitions, it is not surprising that issues have arisen. Women who have chosen a specific health insurance plan partially based on their offering of comprehensive family planning services have often found themselves holding a bill that they simply cannot pay for.
Another result of this lack of coverage is women receiving undesirable care. If a gynecologist recommends an implanted contraceptive device based on a woman's medical and sexual history, it would follow that this would be the best option. Unfortunately, this is often not the case when it comes to lackluster health insurance, which often forces women to utilize methods of contraception that are less effective or simply inappropriate for their personal needs. Basing such an important aspect of health care solely on cost is simply inexcusable.
The avoidance of health insurers of providing true comprehensive coverage, however, is surprising. If a woman does indeed become pregnant or has other problems because she was unable to obtain the best contraceptive solution for her, insurance will be paying significantly more in the birth and after-care of an infant than they would have for the best contraception method to begin with.
Fortunately, some states have recognized this issue and passed legislation forcing private health insurance companies to provide more extensive care. These states require insurers that offer prescription drug coverage to also cover all contraceptives that have been approved by the FDA.
However, 19 of these 27 states include in their legislation loopholes for some employers to be non-exempt. Churches and other religious organizations are allowed to withhold family planning coverage from their employees if they offer a health plan, allegedly respecting the religious beliefs of the particular institution.
One of the other problems of this legislation is that prices on contraceptives are not in any way regulated. Private health insurance companies are permitted to provide less coverage on these contraceptive medications and devices if they so choose, making the legislation almost null in the case of particularly difficult companies.
On the other hand, all state- sponsored health care is required to provide real comprehensive family planning services to all women enrolled. Fortunately, this is federal law, so cannot be violated. This allows more women that could otherwise not afford the care to obtain it, often free of charge.
Unfortunately, the government is so strapped for cash that the income requirements for these health care programs are unreasonably low. Thus, if a woman is poor, but not poor enough, she will likely slip through the cracks of the health care system, resulting in additional health complications and unwanted pregnancies.
by: Casey Trillbar
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