The final health service we will discuss is one that NLIRH has been talking about all along: contraception.
Here is a timeline of the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) decision to affirm what we all have known: contraception is prevention.
- December 3, 2009: The Women’s Health Amendment (WHA) passes the U.S. Senate and becomes part of health reform. The WHA requires insurance companies to cover women’s preventive health services with no additional costs (like co-pays, co-insurance or deductibles). The list of preventive health services is to be developed by the Institute of Medicine.
- July 19, 2011: The Institute of Medicine (IOM), a non-partisan panel of health professionals, determines that contraception is prevention and should be given the same consideration as other preventive health services that will be covered without co-pay. NLIRH applauds the decision.
- August 1, 2011: The Department of Health and Human Services takes up the recommendation of the IOM and includes contraception in the list of preventive services. Houses of worship are exempt, but HHS begins to receive comments from the public on how the rule will apply to religiously-affiliated employers.
- January 20, 2012: HHS announces that religiously-affiliated employers, like Catholic universities and hospitals, must comply with the contraceptive coverage rules, but have an additional year (until August 1, 2013) to comply.
- January 20-February 10, 2012: NLIRH launches “I Heart BC” campaign, consisting of Twitter and Facebook actions, policy advocacy, media commentary, and the release of Just the Fact: Latinas and Birth Control and Sólo los hechos: las Latinas y la cobertura de los anticonceptivos to educate policymakers and the media on Latinas’ support and need for greater access to birth control, regardless of employers’ religious affiliations.
- February 10, 2012: The Obama Administration announced an accommodation to the rules: employees at religiously-affiliated institutions can gain full coverage for contraception directly from insurance companies. NLIRH applauded the commitment to expanding access to contraception.
However, discriminatory attacks on this important coverage have not stopped. The Blunt Amendment, which would have given employers the power to deny coverage for any type of health service that goes in contrast to any religious OR moral views of the employer, was only barely defeated in the U.S. Senate. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced a bill that would allow employers to deny contraceptive coverage for their employees. And we did not think it could happen, but it did: Arizona introduced a law that would protect employers who fire employees who use contraception to avoid pregnancy.
NLIRH will continue to engage Latinas across the country to fight discriminatory attacks against women and Latinas’ health.
Why is this coverage important to Latinas?
According to Hart Research Associates, more than half of Latinas ages 18 to 34 report that the cost of prescription birth control has inhibited their ability to use it consistently.
Thanks to the ACA, this barrier will no longer exist for Latinas with health insurance. And looking to 2014, when health insurance plans will be available on the Affordable Insurance “Exchanges” and employers who do not provide health insurance to employees will face penalties, more Latinas will be covered by health insurance and have great access to this great benefit!