Des Moines Register (U.S.)
, August 09, 2012
By Sally Pederson
Aug. 1 was an exciting day for women across the country. A provision of the health care law went into effect requiring health plans to cover all FDA-approved forms of birth control with no co-pay, plus many preventive health services.
Over the next few years, as more health plans come under the the law, more women will gain access to reliable birth control with no co-pay. Studies show a direct link between increased access to contraception and declines in maternal and infant mortality.
Birth control allows women to protect their health and plan the timing and size of their families, which prevents a range of pregnancy complications and results in better health outcomes for women and children. Affordable birth control means healthier women and families.
Despite the rhetoric around this issue, affordable birth control remains very popular. A Hart Research poll in June shows 73 percent agree that all women should have access to affordable prescription birth control and that the cost should not be a barrier to using the most effective form of birth control.
But despite this widespread support, a small minority of opponents continues efforts to roll back contraceptive coverage. Not only is this bad public policy, it's also an intrusion into women's private health decisions. Contraception is basic health care, and its use is nearly universal - 99 percent of all sexually active women, and 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women, use birth control at some point during their reproductive years.
Access to affordable preventive care is especially important for women, who are more likely than men to go without needed care because of cost. To make sure women have access to preventive care, the law requires that critical preventive services be covered with no co-payments or deductibles.
On Aug. 1, private plans began to cover a wide range of additional women's health services. Yet, this policy is under attack. President Obama's re-election is critical to maintaining these important health benefits.
Over the next few years, as more health plans come under the law, more women will have access to these preventive services with no cost-sharing. The benefit encompasses not only contraception, but well-woman visits; breastfeeding support, supplies and counseling; screening for gestational diabetes; screening and counseling for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV; and screening and counseling for domestic partner violence.
Thanks to the law, a woman's decision about obtaining preventive health care will no longer hinge on her ability to pay.
SALLY PEDERSON of Des Moines served as lieutenant governor during the tenure of Gov. Tom Vilsack.
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