Jul 28, 2022 - Health

Free birth control guaranteed under federal law, Biden administration says

Picture of a wall with different types of birth control taped to the wall

Photo: Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration on Thursday released guidance reiterating that free birth control is guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act, regardless of what state a person might live in.

Driving the news: The Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury issued the guidance in response to "increasing complaints" they've received from people who say they were not receiving this coverage and that plans and issuers were not following the law, HHS and DOL officials said in a press call.

  • Last month, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sent a letter to health insurers and employer health plan organizations reminding them that they are required under federal law to provide coverage for birth control services at no cost.

State of play: Since the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, "lawmakers across the country are banning health care and creating unsafe and dangerous situations for women and their providers," an HHS official said. "And in some states, it appears that birth control will be targeted next."

Details: The guidance says that under the ACA, "people have a right, with their commercial health plan insurance, for birth control coverage at no out-of-pocket cost," per an HHS official.

  • Plans are required to cover the "full range" of birth control methods that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which include birth control pills, vaginal rings, IUDs, emergency contraception (such as Plan B), diaphragms and sponges.
  • They are also required to offer education and counseling and sterilization procedures.

Zoom in: Some states restrict access to Plan B and other emergency contraception pills, including barring the use of public funding for coverage, excluding them from contraceptive coverage mandates and allowing some health providers opt out of dispensing it on religious or moral grounds.

What they're saying: "Under the ACA, you have the right to free birth control — no matter what state you live in,” said Becerra.

  • "With abortion care under attack, it is critical that we ensure birth control is accessible nationwide, and that employers and insurers follow the law and provide coverage for it with no additional cost," he added.
  • "Today’s guidance makes clear that the law requires group health plans and health insurance issuers to provide contraceptive coverage — including emergency contraception — at no cost to participants,” said Walsh.

The big picture: The Biden administration has been taking steps to inform Americans about what their reproductive health-related rights are since the fall of Roe.

Between the lines: The Senate this week blocked an attempt by Democrats to pass a bill to create a federal right to birth control via unanimous consent.

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