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After Obamacare, two-third of insured women now get their birth control pills free

VoxSeptember 18, 2014Articles

The number of privately-insured women getting no-cost birth control pills has more than quadrupled under Obamacare, new data from the Guttmacher Institute shows.

The new research, published in the journal Contraception, shows the percent of privately-insured women who paid nothing for the pill rose from 15 percent in the fall of 2012 up to 67 percent this spring.

Women using less popular forms of contraception, like injectables or the ring, saw similar increases over the same time period.

One obvious question this raises is: why aren’t all women getting no-cost birth control? Obamacare’s mandate that private insurance plans offer contraceptives without copay took effect in August 2012.

The one-third of women still paying for their birth control are most likely in grandfathered health insurance plans. These are the plans that existed before Obamacare that do not have to comply with the contraceptives mandate (or most other Obamacare requirements, for that matter).

Grandfathered plans are, however, disappearing. When a company significantly changes their insurance (drops a benefit, for example, or changes what enrollees have to pay) then they lose their grandfathered status. Just over a quarter of health insurance plans are currently grandfathered, a number that has steadily dropped since Obamacare passed.

As that figure declines, the number of women accessing no-cost contraceptives will likely continue growing.

Is the birth control mandate popular?

Americans are slightly less supportive of mandated birth control coverage than other preventive services, like teeth cleanings and vaccinations. Parents and women tend to support the requirement the most, while people with a higher level of education are generally less in favor.

A survey of more than 2,000 Americans published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found about two-thirds of Americans support the regulation — which is lower than support for other preventive health care.

College-educated, higher earners tend to be less supportive of the birth control mandate

While separate polling has found more education to be associated with higher levels of support for the Affordable Care Act overall, this survey shows that college-educated Americans are slightly less supportive of mandated birth control coverage.

Higher-earning Americans tended to be less supportive of the birth control mandate. Among those earning more than $100,000, 68 percent said they supported the mandate compared to 72 percent of those earning $30,000 or less.

The starkest divides are between men and women, parents and non-parents

Women’s support for mandated coverage of birth control is 13 percentage points higher than men’s, the largest divide in the survey.

The other place where there was a double-digit gap was among people who already have kids. Parents with children under 18 are much more supportive of the mandate than those without kids (or with older children).

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