One of the hottest controversies raging in the healthcare field today has to do with health insurance companies and their coverage of birth control for women. While many companies do provide benefits that allow women to purchase birth control at little to no cost, many others do not make any provision for female contraceptives. The companies that do provide birth control coverage often have limitations on the type of contraceptives they will pay for, as well.

Female vs. Male Birth Control

Controversy has erupted over a perceived inequity in coverage between men and women. Specifically, many women’s groups are outraged that companies routinely pay for items like Viagra for men and fail to provide basic contraceptive coverage for women.

However, this inequity is not as simple as it may seem at first glance. Insurance companies justify the decision to cover Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs by claiming that this problem is a medical condition that must be diagnosed and treated by a doctor. On the other hand, birth control is considered preventive care. This may not seem logical to everyone but it is one of the reasons insurance companies give for failure to cover female birth control.

Another reason some companies decline to cover birth control is that some forms of contraception are considered controversial from an ethical or religious standpoint. For example, the so-called “morning after pill” is considered by some to be a form of abortion, so employers who have objections to the practice may decline to provide this coverage.

The Affordable Care Act Mandates Birth Control

For women who are unable to get birth control coverage from their insurance companies, the Affordable Care Act will mandate that all companies provide contraceptive coverage for employees or pay hefty fines. The only exceptions will be:

  • Companies that employ only people of a certain religion, such as churches or certain non-profit groups. These companies may not be required to provide birth control if the guiding belief system of the organization opposes it
  • Companies that currently do not provide birth control will be grandfathered in until they raise their premiums by four percent or more or make substantial changes to their coverage.

Many women’s groups are hailing the provisions of the Affordable Care Act as a boon to women; other groups are denouncing the Act as intrusion on the part of the government into private enterprise. Some companies are also objecting to the Act on religious grounds, claiming that the owners’ faith does not allow them to provide certain methods of birth control to their employees. Still others see contraception as a personal choice that should be paid for by the women who use it.

What Types of Birth Control Are Usually Covered By Health Insurance?

Some health insurance policies cover all forms of birth control. Others are selective and will provide only basic care. Generally, most insurance companies will provide some form of coverage for the following:

  • Oral contraceptives or “the Pill.” Oral contraceptives are usually covered by health insurance plans; doctors can choose from a variety of types to suit the needs of the patient
  • Diaphragms. Many policies pay for diaphragms and will allow replacement on a regular basis
  • IUDs. Many companies provide some coverage for IUDs since they must be placed by a doctor and the initial cost can be somewhat high
  • Injections. Injections that are given every three to six months are often covered by your insurance plan as well
  • Contraceptive rings. Some policies allow for the purchase of vaginal rings that provide contraceptive protection
  • Tubal ligation. Most companies will allow women to seek tubal ligation, a permanent form of birth control.

Other methods of birth control that may or may not be covered by your insurance:

  • “Morning after” or “week after” pills. These pills are controversial and not all insurance companies allow them. The pills essentially prevent a pregnancy after the fact by not allowing the fertilized egg to attach to the lining of the uterus
  • Abortion. An abortion is defined as the termination of a pregnancy through artificial means. There are several methods of abortion, all of which require a moderate degree of medical intervention. Because the costs associated with abortion are higher than other forms of contraception and because there may be religious or ethical objections to the practice, not every health insurance policy covers these procedures.

While the question of enforcement of the Affordable Care Act is still ongoing, it is likely that in the future women will have more birth control options than in the past.