In Historic Step for Women's Health, Obama Administration Eliminates Copays for Contraception

A real quick update: you guys did wonders yesterday with spreading the message about how the President left John Boehner holding the teabag in the debt limit deal. Stephanie Miller, a nationally syndicated progressive talk show host and Talkers Magazine Women of the Year, read it on the air live this morning! I am trying to get a clip, and will post if/when I get it.

Here's something the Obama administration is doing that wingnuts on the Right are really really not going to like (and wingnuts on the Left are going to really hate to acknowledge): free contraception! Under the Affordable Care Act, the Department of Health and Human Services decides which services will be available as preventive services, that insurance companies must now cover at no additional charge. This is part of the focus on preventive care and wellness found in what I proudly call ObamaCare. Women's rights groups and reproductive rights organizations have advocated for this for a long, long time, and it is now reality for all health plans beginning yesterday, thanks to health reform.
Historic new guidelines that will ensure women receive preventive health services at no additional cost were announced today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Developed by the independent Institute of Medicine, the new guidelines require new health insurance plans to cover women’s preventive services such as well-woman visits, breastfeeding support, domestic violence screening, and contraception without charging a co-payment, co-insurance or a deductible.
Now, the contraceptive methods covered do not include the morning-after pill, but all forms of FDA approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling - basically what most health plans cover already, but without a copay. As you can see, of course, it wasn't just about contraception. Just a few other areas it covered are:
  • well-woman visits;
  • screening for gestational diabetes;
  • human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing for women 30 years and older;
  • sexually-transmitted infection counseling;
  • human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening and counseling;
  • FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling;
  • breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling; and
  • domestic violence screening and counseling.
These are in addition to previous guidelines announced on what insurance companies must cover under preventive care, including regular mammograms and cancer screening. Investment in preventive care is critical both for healthy living of our people and to control the cost of health care. It wasn't just historic in terms of unprecedented focus on wellness and preventive care, but also, as it turns out, the first ever set of preventive health care regulations focused exclusively on women.
[T]he HHS directed the independent Institute of Medicine to, for the first time ever, conduct a scientific review and provide recommendations on specific preventive measures that meet women’s unique health needs and help keep women healthy.
You know something? I, for one, will never forget the loud screeching noise coming from the Purity Left during the health reform debate about how Obama was throwing women's health and reproductive rights under the bus by issuing an executive order to ... well, to enforce the law as is with respect to the Hyde Amendment (the law which bans federal funding of abortions). I will never forget how we heard about the President "capitulating" on reproductive health. All because the President held to the line that the health reform debate was not the place to solve the issues of abortion, and that on that, current law would be left as is.

As they say, however, the proof is in the pudding. The Obama administration has consistently worked on improving women's health and securing women's access to health care, including reproductive care. From lifting the global gag rule to eliminating funding for abstinence-only programs and providing funding for evidence-based sex education to lifting the DC ban on abortions to providing additional funding for Title X family planning to making the morning-after pill available over the counter to young women to banning gender discrimination in health insurance to now making sure women get the proper preventive care they deserve. The White House outlines here the other ACA benefits for women:
  • In 2014, the new law makes it illegal for insurance companies to deny any woman coverage because of a pre-existing condition or charge more because of health status or gender.
  • Up to 15 million women who now are uninsured could gain subsidized coverage under the law and 14.5 million insured women will benefit from provisions that improve coverage or reduce premiums.
  • Access to care is also expanded, including guaranteeing choice of a primary care provider within a plan’s network, including OB-GYNs and pediatricians.
And while we are on women's issues, let's understand something - women's rights are human rights as Hillary Clinton said, and women's issues are all of our issues. And so let's not forget the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the very first law the President signed, or the two stellar women he appointed to the Supreme Court. As far as records go, this President's record on women, so far as I can tell, has been stellar.

This, my friends, is called getting things done. This is called making progress. Progress is not now, and has never been about podium pounding and making a whole lot of whining and screaming. It has always been about doing something that improves the lives of real people. That is what the Obama administration is doing here, and that is what they have done since day one.