Last week the Obama administration announced that most employers will be required to cover contraceptives in employee health plans. This was a huge victory for reproductive health and feminist groups who had been lobbying for this extended coverage for preventative care services.
Another thing it means is that the US has jumped ahead of some Canadian provinces in terms of contraceptive access, at least for those insured by employers. I use the Nuva Ring for hormonal contraception and while my current employer’s health plan does cover it, my previous three health plans did not, leaving me out of pocket to the tune of approximately $30/month. It was hard to imagine women without extended health plans being able to afford this extra amount to have the choice I had.
Coming out of this, Options for Sexual Health BC is renewing its call on the provincial government to ensure universal access to publicly funded contraception.
In 2010 Opt produced a research paper on this topic, which was based on the argument that “publicly funded contraception for all British Columbians is good public policy.” They noted over 30 countries in Europe already mandate publicly funded contraception and that ensuring it in BC would help us catch up.
More importantly, the report recognizes that:
“The measure will improve health outcomes for mothers and infants by reducing the risks associated with unintended pregnancy, particularly among adolescents and by maximizing the health benefits and outcomes of preparing for planned pregnancy. Oral contraceptive use also contributes to reduced rates of ovarian and uterine cancer, and has other numerous non-contraceptive therapeutic benefits in such conditions as dysmenorrhea, endometriosis and premenstrual syndrome.”
OptBC’s report also notes that providing universally accessible publicly funded contraception doesn’t just benefit heterosexual women: “There are other therapeutic benefits of hormonal contraception that apply to women regardless of sexual orientation. In this regard, universal access may have a positive complementary impact on both health care costs and the access afforded to low income women who might otherwise forego the therapeutic benefit.”
While the BC Liberal government has had a less than stellar record on women’s issues, they have embraced a few highly visible moves to support preventative health care, such as improving coverage of anti-smoking aids. I hope the OptBC campaign is able to get the government to implement the called-for policy.
If you want to help tell Christy Clark what you think, sign OptBC’s Change.Org petition here.