One small step backward for birth control access…

Filed in Gather Health Essential by on March 16, 2007 0 Comments

… one giant LEAP backward for women’s health. Yesterday, on March 15, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled by a 2–1 vote that it is NOT discrimination for an employer health plan to exclude coverage for prescription birth control, even if it covers other preventive prescription drugs and devices.

The case — referred to as In Re Union Pacific Railroad Employment Practices Litigation — overturns a previous ruling by a federal district court based in Nebraska. Like a handful of other federal district courts, the Nebraska district court had ruled that Union Pacific’s health plan was discriminatory because it denied women coverage for prescriptions to prevent pregnancy, while covering a variety of other prescriptions to prevent non-pregnancy-related conditions. The plaintiffs in the Union Pacific case are represented by attorneys at Planned Parenthood of Western Washington.

Interesting that less than two months after Viagra entered the U.S. market, more than half of all prescriptions for it received some insurance reimbursement. Yet coverage for prescription birth control still lags far behind, even though some of the most common forms of contraception have been on the market for 40 years.

Birth control is basic health care, and health insurance should cover it. Every woman deserves every chance to prevent unintended pregnancy and plan her family.

Planned Parenthood is urging lawmakers to pass Prevention First, a comprehensive federal legislation package that would protect women’s access to birth control and other essential reproductive health care services. This law would require health plans to cover FDA-approved prescription birth control and related medical services; it would also expand access to preventive reproductive health care services and education programs, increase access to family planning services, prevent the spread of STD/STIs, and give women the tools they need to make responsible decisions about family planning.

Expanded access to birth control is a win-win situation for people on both sides of this case. Pregnancy prevention reduces the costs insurers would have to pay for either maternity care or abortion; it also reduces the costs of families whose physical and financial well-being is threatened by unintended pregnancy.

Companies who deny their female employees coverage for prescription birth control have no excuse.

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