Ob-gyns addressed the critical need for increased insurance coverage of contraceptive services for women in the US at a news conference during the 55th Annual Clinical Meeting of The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
Speakers discussed the barriers that impede many women from securing contraception and the crippling effect that unintended pregnancy can have on women and society.
“Whenever we seem to make progress in providing contraceptive coverage to all women, we experience a significant setback like the March 2007 8th Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that employers do not have to pay for contraception for their employees,” said Vivian M. Dickerson, MD, past president of ACOG. “This type of judgment sends the message that women’s health care needs are not taken seriously. When will the US stop treating its women as second-class citizens?” she asked.
“More options than ever exist for safe, effective family planning, yet too many women still face too many hurdles in accessing them. Most of the 16.8 million women in need of publicly funded contraceptive services do not have access to proper care?even women with health insurance have a hard time paying for contraception,” Dr. Dickerson said.
Two-thirds of women rely on private insurers for their health coverage, yet a majority of these insurers do not cover contraception. Women already pay 68% more than men do for out-of-pocket medical costs, due in great part to their reproductive health coverage. States should be working to reduce these gaps, not making it more difficult and more expensive for women to get the health care they need.
The typical US woman will need birth control for more than three decades of her life, and not only to avoid pregnancy. For years, doctors have prescribed hormonal contraceptives to alleviate heavy bleeding, irregular periods, and acne and to protect against a number of other health problems that affect women, such as ovarian cysts, bone loss, benign breast disease, the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome, and anemia. According to ACOG, contraception is basic, preventive health care and should be readily available and treated the same as prophylactic therapies for other medical conditions.
“Without access to contraception, women are made to play Russian roulette with their fertility,” said Rebekah E. Gee, MD, an ob-gyn at Philadelphia Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center and Robert Wood Johnson clinical scholar at the University of Pennsylvania. “A sexually active woman who has unprotected sex for five years will experience an average of 4.25 unintended pregnancies. Restricting a woman’s family planning options essentially forces her to accept those unacceptable odds,” she added.