President Obama is cracking down on insurance companies after finding out that they were using loopholes in his birth control mandate to deny women access to some types of birth control. Under the controversial mandate, insurance companies are supposed to provide contraceptives to women without charging them a co-pay, but two recent reports found that some companies were ignoring the law, while others were only offering the cheaper options.
The Kaiser Family Foundation and National Women’s Law Center both released studies that detailed how insurance companies were exploiting loopholes in the mandate to screw over women. The Kaiser study, which looked at 20 companies in five states, reported that one insurer didn’t cover the birth control ring at all and four others “couldn’t ascertain” whether they covered IUDs (an intrauterine device).
There is variation in how insurance carriers are interpreting the guidelines for contraceptive coverage issued by HHS, and that not all methods may be covered without cost-sharing to women policyholders,” the report finds.
Kaiser said that the most common way to refuse some types of birth control was by something insurers called “reasonable medical management.” The insurers were restricting access to certain contraceptives in favor of cheaper options. For instance, they were offering the pill for free, but charging women a co-pay who wanted the other types. Women could only receive the more expensive option for free if they proved there was a medically necessary reason for it.
When the Obama Administration found out what the insurance companies were doing, they immediately took action. They released new guidelines on May 11, that require insurers to offer all FDA-approved types of birth control. There are currently 18 approved methods of birth control by the FDA, including the pill, the ring, an IUD, and sterilization.
Under the new guidelines insurers will no longer be allowed to force a woman to take a pill instead of getting an IUD because the pill is cheaper. What they can do, is refuse to cover name brand contraceptives for free and offer the generic ones instead.
This is a perfect example of why health reform was so important. Insurance companies have proven time and again that if they are left with little regulation, they will screw their customers over if that’s what it takes to make a profit. Obama recognizes that all women are different and just because pills are the cheapest contraceptive, that doesn’t necessarily make them the best choice for us all. I know that when I took birth control pills, I often forgot to take them at the same time every day and that made them less effective. Insurance companies have one job and that is to insure us; they are not gynecologists and should have no say over what type of contraceptive a women takes.