Copyright 1999 Chicago Sun-Times, Inc.
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July 19, 1999, MONDAY, Late Sports
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 16
LENGTH: 412 words
Medical groups support coverage of birth control
BYLINE: BY JIM RITTER
The nationwide campaign to force health
insurers to pay for birth control picked up new support last weekend at a
medical conference in Chicago.
The American Osteopathic Association
endorsed state laws requiring that any health plan that covers prescription
drugs also cover contraceptives for women.
Maryland passed a
contraceptive mandate last year and Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada,
New Hampshire, North Carolina and Vermont followed suit this year. Fifteen other
states, including Illinois, have seriously considered legislation, according to
the Alan Guttmacher Institute. Some laws exempt religious employers that have
moral objections to birth control.
Congress is considering similar
legislation. The campaign was sparked by anger that some health plans pay for
Viagra but not for birth control.
"The exclusion of
contraceptive coverage by insuring companies is discriminatory
against women and their health," the Osteopathic Association said. The
association, which represents more than 43,000 osteopathic doctors, met at the
A 1995 Guttmacher Institute survey found that 84 percent
of HMOs paid for the Pill. But only 39 percent of plans covered all five
reversible methods -- the Pill, IUD, diaphragm, Depo-Provera and
Norplant. Among traditional insurance plans, in which patients pick their own
doctors, only 33 percent paid for the Pill and only 15 percent paid for all five
Last spring, the Illinois House passed a bill that would
require any plan that pays for Viagra to also cover birth control. The bill died
in the Senate. Sponsor Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) plans to try again next year.
The insurance industry and employer groups opposed Flowers' bill. To pay
for a contraceptive mandate, employers might have to raise premiums or reduce
coverage of other benefits, said Chris Hamrick of the Illinois Association of
HMOs. "Sexism makes for a great sound bite," Hamrick said. "But it's not an
issue of sexism. It's a matter of cost."
Covering all reversible birth
control methods would cost health plans an average of $ 1.78 per month per
employee, the Guttmacher Institute estimates. The average employee share would
be 36 cents.
Not paying for contraceptives is penny wise, pound foolish,
the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said. Contraceptives
reduce costs from unintended pregnancies, including maternity care,
miscarriages, abortions, labor and delivery, ACOG said.
July 21, 1999