We all know that the majority in the House of the Representatives doesn’t look too kindly on women’s constitutional right to privacy, which includes the right to use birth control and to have an abortion. Already four months into the new Congress, the majority has voted to permanently ban any federal insurance or health program from covering abortion except in very limited circumstances. It tried to pass an unconstitutional bill that would ban abortions after twenty-weeks but only failed to do so because of an internal disagreement about whether rape survivors must report their rape to get their abortions covered.
Why do these House members want to ban insurance coverage of reproductive health care and ban some abortions? Because they want to impose their own personal beliefs about birth control and abortion on the clear majority of the American population who does not hold similar views. They want to legislate women’s bodies and interfere in women’s reproductive health decisions. Read more »
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (the ACA or Obamacare) health plans are required to cover many women’s preventive services, including birth control, without copays or deductibles. However, a new Kaiser Family Foundation study of health plans and their birth control coverage found that some plans are utilizing “medical management” for some birth control methods, often resulting in barriers for women accessing the method that has been prescribed to them by their health care provider. Examples of medical management used by plans includes placing some methods into cost-sharing “tiers,” requiring that providers give pre-authorization for a prescription before covering it, and in some cases requiring that a covered method “fail” before covering a woman’s preferred method.
At a briefing held yesterday at the Kaiser Family Foundation, panelists discussed the implications of the study and the potential harm when medical management becomes an obstacle for women accessing birth control. One panelist – an insurance plan representative – described the logic behind this type of medical management as “indefensible.” Our own Gretchen Borchelt, VP for Health and Reproductive Rights at the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), drove home the importance of compliance by health plans, by explaining that these are not just problems or barriers, but are violations of the law. Read more »
If I were to tell you that there was a program that helped women get the most effective forms of birth control and had reduced the teen birth rate by nearly 40% in four years, you’d probably say, “This is amazing, tell me more.” If I told you that for every dollar invested in this program, the state had saved $5.85 in Medicaid costs, you might say, “You can’t argue with that math.” And if I told you that there was has an opportunity to continue this fantastic work, you’d probably say, “That’s a no-brainer, they should keep doing it.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be a no-brainer for some members of the Colorado state legislature.
The state legislature is currently debating whether it should fund the Department of Public Health and Environment to continue the Colorado Family Planning Initiative. The program, which helps women get access to long-acting reversible birth control (LARCs,) was started in 2009 with funding from a private donor. The funding ends in June. The program’s impact on the state cannot be overstated. There have been reductions in: unintended pregnancy; abortion rates; numbers of infants needing nutrition support; and, Medicaid spending on births. Women, children, families, and the state budget all benefitted from this program, so why is there any debate? Read more »
Last Monday, the Supreme Court issued what is known as a GVR, or “Grant, Vacate and Remand” order. The order instructs the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby last summer, to reconsider its decision from February of last year that rejected the University of Notre Dame’s challenge to the federal birth control benefit. The Seventh Circuit will review Notre Dame’s challenge next month, Wednesday, April 22nd.
What exactly is Notre Dame challenging? Glad you asked. The birth control coverage benefit, a provision of the Affordable Care Act, requires insurance coverage of the full range of FDA-approved methods of birth control, sterilization, and related education and counseling. Read more »
Ask any woman who has used the birth control pill about the time she needed to get pills and couldn’t because she couldn’t get a prescription in time, and she’ll have a story. That time she was on vacation and forgot her next pack of pills. That Sunday morning she opened up her medicine cabinet to find that the pack she finished yesterday was the last pack she had. That time she couldn’t get an appointment with her health care provider until weeks after her last pack of pills expired. Or that time she didn’t have a regular provider that she could call. Most of these women probably ended up with a gap between when they finished their birth control and when they were able to get a new pack of pills. And there’s a simple solution to this problem: there should be at least one birth control pill available over-the-counter. Read more »
For those of us in need of some good news for women's health, the D.C. Circuit Court just came through. In the first Circuit Court decision since Hobby Lobby, a unanimous panel of the D.C. Circuit said [PDF] that non-profit organizations that object to providing birth control don’t get out of complying with the birth control coverage requirement of the federal health care law.
Specifically, the non-profit organizations – including Catholic University – were challenging the "accommodation" provided to them. Non-profit organizations that qualify for the accommodation do not have to provide employees with birth control coverage. Instead, they simply have to send a form to HHS or their insurance company saying they object to covering birth control. The insurance company then provides the birth control coverage without cost-sharing directly to the employees and students. In other words, as the court said, the non-profits need only "complete the written equivalent of raising a hand in response to the government's query as to which religious organizations want to opt out…. Other entities step in and fill the gap" to ensure women get the benefit. Read more »
It is hard to underestimate the potential impact of the Supreme Court’s decision Burwell v. Hobby Lobby on women’s equality. That is the case in which the Court held that some for-profit corporations could refuse to provide health insurance coverage of birth control for their employees despite the federal contraceptive coverage law that required it. The Court’s decision, at heart, is rooted in a very old and very outdated misunderstanding about women. And that is the idea that women’s reproductive health is somehow “extra,” “different,” or “separate.” This fundamentally wrong assumption about women’s reproductive health has been used for ages to take away women’s rights. By reinforcing this dangerous approach to women’s reproductive health, the Court has put all aspects of women’s rights at risk. Here’s how it works: Read more »
In the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision in June, the Court allowed certain for-profit corporations to get out of complying with the health care law’s birth control benefit, which requires insurance plans to cover birth control without any additional costs. There were a lot of reactions to the decision’s stunning disregard for women’s health – including our own here at the National Women’s Law Center where we have continued to push for more attention and anger over the issue. Some people were shocked, some people were angry (the consequences of the decision have shown just how much there is to be angry about), and some people wanted to knit.
To protest the decision, the Secular Coalition for America (SCA) asked their supporters to knit bricks to rebuild the wall between church and state. If SCA received 400 bricks their staff would bring them to the court, if SCA got 800 they would bring them to Congress, and if they got 1,200 they would take them to the White House. Read more »
Earlier this week we got some more insight into the twisted reasoning that some people use to justify attempts to limit women’s access to essential health care. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Monday in the case Wielandv. Sebelius. The plaintiff, Paul Wieland, would have us believe that this is just like the other cases that have been filed against the rule that insurance plans cover the full range of birth control methods. Except there’s a big difference: Wieland is not the owner of a corporation nor is he representing a religiously affiliated organization. This means that the birth control coverage requirement doesn’t even apply to him. He does not have to do anything differently than he did before the ACA expanded access to contraceptives for millions of women (and that is why the district court dismissed his case). But that’s not stopping Wieland. Read more »
Are you angry yet over the Supreme Court’s Decision in Hobby Lobby?
As part of the Law Center's work, we track the legal challenges to the requirement that health insurance plans cover the full range of contraceptive methods. One of the latest developments is that some of the other for-profit companies that brought lawsuits are getting what they asked for – a permanent exception from having to include the birth control requirement in their health insurance plans. Just last week, a for-profit lumber businessgot its exemption.
I knew this development was likely because of the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, holding that some for-profit companies can use religion to discriminate against their employees. But just because I knew it was coming didn’t stop me from experiencing a whole new level of anger. Read more »