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Experts Again Recommend Full Coverage of Contraception in Healthcare

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We encouraged the inclusion of contraception in the definition of preventive services at The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) second public hearing on the definition of preventive health services for women last week. Our testimony asked the committee to include contraception in its definition of preventive services, a step that would treat contraception like any other preventive service and thereby require that it be available without a co-payment. Although several groups attempted to persuade the committee to not cover contraception, many organizations eloquently elevated women’s voices including Raising Women’s Voices, Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, American Civil Liberties Union, and Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.

Although the Women’s Health Amendment, which was passed as part of healthcare reform last year, specifically includes routine screenings such as mammograms and pap tests, contraception was not specifically listed as preventive care, although it was intended to be covered by Congress through the IOM process.

NLIRH asserted that:

•    Contraception is indeed preventive care and essential to maintaining Latina’s health. In fact, on average, women spend approximately 30 years of their lives preventing pregnancy and only approximately five years trying to get pregnant. Like preventive services that are covered for men and children, contraception is a cornerstone of maintaining women’s health.
•    Excluding one of the most common preventive services for women will have a disparate effect on Latinas. It would mean that women who are already paying monthly premiums will be forced to pay out of pocket co-pays where other groups, namely men, are able to receive comprehensive coverage at no extra charge. This is a consequence that adds up over the years to create a large financial disparity.
•    In the short term, the cost of birth control has a serious affect on a woman’s ability to take contraception regularly as well as select the method that is right for her. In fact, 50% of women ages 18-34, including Latinas, say there has been a time when the cost of prescription birth control interfered with their ability to use it consistently, exposing them to unintended pregnancies.
•    The committee should use precise language in their recommendations to eliminate unnecessary gender modifiers that will have unintended consequences on transgender Latino(a)s.

The committee will again meet in the spring and is scheduled to finalize its recommendations shortly thereafter. NLIRH will monitor its progress and continue to advocate for Latinas in the process.