Under Obamacare, Free Birth Control Starting August 1st

A measure under the Patient Protection and Affordability Act will go into effect in two weeks, offering lots of women the opportunity to save a whole lot of cash on contraceptives.

Say what you will about the Patient Protection and Affordability Act—a.k.a Obamacare—but one thing’s for certain: It’s about to save a lot of women a heck of a lot of money. On August 1st, the bill’s (controversial) contraceptive-coverage measure goes into effect, under which insurance companies must provide members with options for free—that’s right, zero cost—contraceptives. This includes oral birth-control pills, emergency contraceptives (i.e. the morning-after pill), and diaphragms, as well as services like sterilization, patient counseling and education about contraception options.

To be honest, I’d pretty much forgotten about this little line item in the bill—that is, until a letter from my insurance company arrived in the mail last week, listing out which medications it would cover under the new law. I was pretty giddy; anyone who’s ever taken birth control knows it’s easy to rack up quite the pharmacy tab. So free birth control? That’s, well, pretty awesome.

A couple of things you should know: Not all pills and methods are going to be free. Your insurance company has the discretion to decide which prescriptions are covered, and which are not. My insurer provided for 21 oral contraceptives, three emergency contraceptives, and three diaphragms. Products like condoms are not covered under the law.

Another potential hitch: Depending on the kind of insurance you have, your contraception coverage may not go into effect until January 1st. It has to do with whether your plan is part of a “fully funded commercial group” or a “self-insured group.” Plans under the former are subject to the August 1st deadline, regardless of renewal date. Contraceptive coverage for most self-insureds will go into effect in January, when the plans renew. I was unsure which category my plan falls under, so I called my insurer. Turns out, I’m in the August 1st camp.

The last exception is employees who work for religious organizations, whose companies may have opted out of this kind of coverage in the past due to religious beliefs. The law provides that these employers have at least until August 1, 2013, before the change goes into effect. The extra time gives President Obama and his team the opportunity to work with religious groups to come to an agreement and find a solution, since many opposed to the measure are still pursuing means to overturn the law.

Only time will tell what will happen on that front. But for now, I’m happy to ride the wave of free prescriptions as far as it’ll take me.

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  • MBK

    Oh, honey. It’s “rack,” not “wrack.” You will avoid “racking” up a bill. Where are your copy editors?

    • Emily Leaman

      Apparently, it’s you. Thanks MBK :)

  • A

    Readers should note that not all plans will cover it beginning August 1. If your plan runs on the calendar year, coverage begins January 1.

  • Mary

    While this is great news, I had seen on government websites that the bill would require coverage of “all FDA-approved contraceptives.”As a Mirena user, this is disappointing.

  • olivia

    any list of what birth control pills are covered and what insurance companies?

  • Amanda

    Yeah, I thought when this first came out that ALL contraceptives were supposed to be without co-pay??? Now we have to choose between the ones our insurance companies say we can choose from? I am on a very specific type of BC pill, for specific reasons. I doubt my insurance company has this on their list (a list they haven’t even informed me of yet).

  • Amanda

    Although this story is old, it clearly states ALL FDA approved contraceptives will be covered: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/birth-control-free-insurance-rules-affect-millions-women/story?id=14202111#.UAwAHGFDwsI

    • Emily Leaman

      Hi Amanda,

      Thanks for reading, and for your comments. My understanding based on what I’ve read and heard—including from my insurance company, who I spent the better part of the morning on the phone with before posting this—is that while all FDA-approved contraceptives technically fall within the law’s purview, insurance companies can decide which ones they will offer at no cost. My insurer, for example, is offering all of the drugs that fall within its Tier 1 category, which total 27 prescriptions in all, as I mentioned in the story. It’s probably worth calling your insurance company to find out which ones it will cover.

      I found this primer to be helpful (read the section under Pharmacy Exceptions): http://www.golocalprov.com/business/smart-benefits-free-contraception-for-women-starts-august-1/

  • Dorothy Mann

    Thanks for the heads up – let’s remember this is a great benefit for American women – we need to be sure that on election day we act to keep this benefit.

  • Lola

    Hey – It’s not “FREE”…. we’re paying for it one way or another.

  • Danielle

    Sorry but just because it’s “free” doesn’t mean that insurance companies are going to higher thier premiums. So it will cost us more monthly. They have to make up for that loss somehow

    • H

      Not sure what you’re saying Danielle. Insurance companies are going to “higher”, or better said “raise”, their premiums if they have to offer this for free. Paying more monthly is the same thing as raising premiums. Obamacare is socialistic disaster. I hope you’re not so narrow minded as to think obamacare is a good idea only because it saves you thirty bucks a month. Trust me, it will catch up to you.

  • http://www.bottomlineonyourhealth.com sarah hiner

    while a lovely idea to furnish contraception, birth control pills do nothing to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, another risky and costly side effect of non-monogamous sexual activity.

  • Kim

    Sorry but am I the only who thinks this is somewhat absurd? It’s a great idea but I think the execution was poor. As much as saving the $30 co-pay is “nice” I’d much prefer to see the savings passed along to those who truly need it or wouldn’t be able to afford birth control otherwise. Does the new plan offer birth control to those who don’t have insurance? Or are we just allowing people of all incomes (emphasis!) who have insurance to save money on something they would buy regardless? In my opinion the people WITHOUT insurance are the ones who need the free birth control, not folks like myself who are in upper income brackets and can easily afford the co-pays and would be on birth control regardless of whether or not it was free.

  • Sheltiebrat

    Don’t forget, vote for “free to me”, lol – on anything and everything, because, you know, it’s FREE!

    Free to those in need, yay, free for people who just want free, well, that just sucks, because it is everyone (including anyone currently working 3 minimum wage jobs these days) to pay for the free stuff that people would get almost free anyway.

    No common sense in the world these days – it pays better for people to stay home and do nothing than it does for people to go to work.

    But hey, there is free stuff available. lol

  • AP Johnson

    Funny how even the author of this article keeps calling the birth control items ‘free.’ Nothing is free. Someone is paying for it, primarily the tax payers, many of which can’t really afford it. This is just the latest socialistic burden laid upon the taxpayers that other people, those not paying for it, get to label as ‘free.’

  • http://PHILLYMAG.COM Arntee

    I just found out today that my insurance will not charge for contraceptives beginning in January. I’m 66 and retired. Oh yah — my insurance is going up $99 per month. ‘Not a happy camper!

  • mary

    …just because you personally do not use birth control is no reason to complain. I don’t use antibiotics yet I didn’t complain when they became free and I don’t have diabetes but I am Ok with the meds being free to those who do…it isn’t just birth control that no longer has a co-pay.

  • David

    Its not really free. The rest of society will be paying for it. It would save middle class Americans a lot of money if you just used condoms for birth control. This is why socialism just makes people poorer in the long run. Socialism is seductive to those who just think of everything as “free.”

  • Louise Carter

    Of course it’s not “free” but:

    1) birth control is a lot cheaper than an unplanned pregnancy.
    2) we have seen how well “Just say No” doesn’t work.
    3) morality cannot be legislated.
    4) it is possible that you may find yourself one day in the same person’s shoes as you are judging today.

  • Hoosiermom

    You’ve never used antibiotics? Ever? Really? I find that impossible to believe. And those posters who are saying it isn’t actually “free” are correct. You’ll be paying for it when your premiums go up next year. Wait and see.

  • shellea altman

    Free birth control tells women that now they are free to be promiscuous; however, the federal government cannot pick up the emotional pieces involved with giving yourself to someone who has not made a marital commitment to you. The government assures if an “accident” happens, then they will be there to abort or support as needed. Nothing is more beautiful than making love to a man who has committed in marriage to you and together you choose to bring another human into this world.

  • Erica

    So I just got a letter in the mail saying that my cheap, super high deductible insurance will now give me free birth control. Sounds awesome right. But then I think back to a couple months ago when a letter came informing me that they will now cover pregnancy services. This was then followed by a letter saying my premium was going up by $25 dollars a month. Boo. While I suppose it would be nice to have this covered if I were to accidentally get pregnant, I am very careful and am not planning on having a baby for a very long time. When I do choose to get pregnant, I will certainly not be on this cheapo insurance plan that I currently have. Also, I was previously receiving free birth control from Planned Parenthood which I qualified for because of my low student income, so now I’m waiting for the letter saying my premium is going up for a service I didn’t really want or need. Obamacare sounded pretty good to me in theory (free stuff = good), but now that I see its effects firsthand I’m beginning to think that it just takes away from our ability to choose what level of care is right for us. As a young person who is not planning on getting pregnant any time soon and already had a source of birth control, I did not need these services and would rather not be paying for them. But instead of giving me free choice as the consumer to logically decide what is best for ME, the government has incorrectly decided for me that these are services I needed, costing me more money for services I will not use. Not cool.

    Also, for the comments above which seem to suggest that access to birth control should be restricted because it encourages women to be promiscuous, I am currently engaged to a man I have been with for 6 years and birth control is a tool I use to be able to plan our life together and not have 5 kids at 23 and go on welfare. So boo to you too.

  • TxLass

    “Free” contraceptives are all well and good if you HAVE insurance. This apparently does not extend to the uninsured. My DIL has been using oral contraceptives provided at low cost by Planned Parenthood. Because they’re all about benefits for low income ladies, right? Not so much. Three months ago, her script went from $2-3 per month to over $80. What was that about PP being all about helping poor people? She makes less money now than she did when she first went to PP. We have been sold a pig in a poke, folks.

  • Teri

    Birth control pills have been available for $9/mo at Walmart for years and years. This is cash price, no insurance. Anybody using the cost of the pills as an excuse to not use birth control is doing just that – using it as an excuse. I realize there are specific issues that birth control pills are used for where you have to be on a specific pill and those may not be in the $9 plan. But, for those using them for birth control reasons only, they are easily obtained for $9/mo (or less – mine are $4/mo and they are one of the ones used for specific issues other than just birth control.)

  • Julia

    Free birth control pills = some prescription drugs now not covered at all or moved into a higher copayment on insurance plans. Nothing should be free. If a nominal amount is charged to everyone for everything, then nonone suffers unduly financially. Besides, for those individuals who truly could not afford either birth control pills or an unplanned pregnancy, free birth control pills have been available through public health depts for years. So many women who could afford to pay say $10.00 a month are getting free contraceptives for pregnancy prevention or other conditions calling for hormones, but my 78-year old mom sees her heart medicine shoot up from $6 a month to $40 a month. Something I have compounded for a topical medication to help with the debilitating pain of a medical condition is now going to be non-covered instead of costing the copayment I was accustomed to. This is fundamentally wrong. It is favoring one segment of the population to the detriment of another. Not fair, not right, not just. Thank you, Sandra Fluke. Your costs have decreased, mine have increased. Don’t forget, ladies: those free pills also carry an increased risk for a host of bad cardiovascular conditions. Will the rest of us be asked to pay for your treatment for stroke one day?

  • Rick

    Obama=Oprah….
    you get a car! you get a house! you get a free cell phone! you get birth control for free!

    Socialism at it’s finest… Let the free market work and free us from government ran programs.

    • Memegalt2012

      Oprah and all the globalists who gave her the power gave us this mentality and gave us Obama. She is the devil

  • britt

    People need to take responsibility for themselves. Why am I paying an extra $100 in premiums for someone else to receive “free” contraceptives? That’s $100 per month that could go to paying my own hospital bills.

  • Heather

    No-one seems to have touched on this yet. Will someone please talk about how sterilization fits into this? I desperately want to get my tubes tied (can’t handle hormonal BC, have tried 6 different kinds, all of them mess my body up, condoms aren’t 100% effective, REALLY don’t want kids). Is sterilization covered across the board or only as a medical necessity?

  • Memegalt2012

    So if I chose condoms and jellies or foam , not covered but if I choose to put hormone pills or patches in my body , covered? Can’t you see they are just trying to poison us? or at the very least, line insurance co pockets!

  • Crystal

    Why would you want free birth control? It causes breast cancer!