Good news! An Institue of Medicine panel has recommended that, under health reform, insurance companies be required to provide women with co-pay-free birth control.
Read: FREE birth control if you're already paying an insurance premium!
Here's the back story: The Affordable Care Act tasks the Department of Health and Human Services with defining a "coverage floor" — a list of health services and drugs that insurance companies must cover without co-pays. HHS then asked the independent, non-profit IOM to recommend exactly which services be included in this category. Now, unsurprisingly, contraception has made the grade. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the National Business Group on Health already support co-pay-free birth control as among the most cost-effective preventive medical interventions available; 15.3 million American women use hormonal birth control, which is one of the most frequently-prescribed medications in the country.
But as I reported last year for The Daily Beast, some of the same conservative culture war organizations that mobilized against health reform in 2009 by claiming it was a pro-abortion bill have severe concerns about providing American women with free prescription contraception. The Catholic Bishops et al are not going to sit back quietly and watch these policies become regulatory law.
Therefore, this is a great time for President Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to show more spine than they have in the past on reproductive health. They should make it clear that they will not stand for any politicization of this medically uncontroversial recommendation.
I'd just like to remind the president of what he swore in 2007, in a speech to Planned Parenthood activists. "We should never be willing to consign a teenage girl to a lifetime of struggle because of a lack of access to birth control," he said, promising to fight for "equity in contraceptive coverage" and for a health-care system in which "access to affordable contraception is not just a privilege for the few but an option for all women."