Breaking: The contraception mandate benefits women

New research reinforces what we already know: "Avoiding pregnancy is a key component of women's health"

Published August 20, 2014 3:26PM (EDT)

                              (<a href=''>Calek</a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>)
(Calek via Shutterstock)

Today in shocking scientific findings: Women have the potential to "benefit greatly" from the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive coverage mandate. Surprise!

Researchers from the Penn State College of Medicine recently reviewed how the mandate's "first-dollar coverage," which ensures that insured women pay nothing out-of-pocket for office visits or contraceptive methods, will affect American users. The report, published in the fall edition of Women's Health Issues, notes that first-dollar coverage "has the potential to dramatically shift contraceptive use patterns, to reduce the U.S. unintended pregnancy rate ... and to improve the health of women and families" -- all of which should come as no surprise.

Despite the inclination to say "no duh" in response to the conclusion that providing women with contraception access at essentially no additional cost will help women take control of their reproductive health, the authors make some important points about the mandate's implications. And, in light of the Supreme Court's disastrous Hobby Lobby decision, it seems it's always good to reinforce the fact that giving women a range of options to take control of their health does, indeed, promote better health. (It's also just basic healthcare.)

Researchers Carol S. Weisman and Cynthia H. Chuang note that by making all FDA-approved contraceptive methods accessible, women might be more inclined to use long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), such as IUDs and implants, which are generally more effective but also more expensive. The increasing proportion of women opting for LARCs does require a new approach to providing reproductive healthcare, as these methods tend to require more physician intervention and are not right for every woman. Weisman and Chuang note that such methods should not simply be promoted for all women because they have the highest rates of long-term efficacy.

Instead, the authors advocate a "woman-centered approach," along with several other key suggestions to make the contraceptive mandate work best for American families -- including clear communication to the public about the contraceptive mandate, noting which types of health plans are included and which aren't; training for primary care providers in effective contraceptive counseling; and "seamless referral arrangements," so that women who cannot access certain coverage through their primary care providers can get the contraception they need elsewhere with ease, and without coverage gaps that could lead to unintended pregnancies.

By Jenny Kutner

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