Good news for liberated ladies! Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) enacted new guidelines to provide a variety of free preventive services to women, effective on plan years starting on or after August 1, 2012. These reforms stem from the hotly contested Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. One of the most significant provisions in HHS’ new guidelines is the inclusion of free contraceptive methods and counseling. Before you rush to the clinic or doctor’s office for all of your new-found freebies, here are a few things you should know:
1. No more dollar bills for your pills.
No more co-pays, co-insurance, or deductibles on any FDA-approved contraceptive methods. Just because five out of eight hippies swear by it does not mean the government does. You can complete a transaction at the local pharmacy or behemoth chain pharmacy without reaching for your wallet. It’s a beautiful thing not to have to compromise control over your body for food, cell phone bills or other essential goods and services. However, note that you are still technically paying for services in your premium. They will be dollar-covered by your insurance company, just like other essential services and medications that do not require a co-pay.
2. Kraft still costs more than Foodtown.
Your insurance company may not cover brand-name drugs completely if there is a generic version available, as is the case with other medication. As always, consult with your medical provider to decide which is right for you. Remember that you also must have a prescription.
3. Baby already on board? HHS isn’t on board, either.
The new coverage provisions are for preventive care only, so sterilization procedures and morning-after pills are covered, but abortifacient (abortion-inducing) drugs and procedures are not covered. It should be noted that family planning counseling IS included, so if you’re expecting and need advice, you will not be turned away.
4. Praying could mean paying.
Religious institutions that offer insurance to employees have the choice to opt out of contraceptive coverage under HHS’ new provisions. If your employer has a clear religious agenda, and hires/serves people of that religion, check with your benefits administrator to find out if their insurance will cover contraceptives.
5. We are women, and we roar at federal agencies.
HHS is allowing public comment on their ruling for the next sixty days, fifty-nine now. As we watch the systematic slashing of Planned Parenthood funding unfolding on the state level, it’s of utmost importance that we make our voices heard in support of free contraceptive services. Lawmakers and bureaucrats alike need to know that free contraceptives are the new norm, and that anything less is unacceptable.