Copyright 1999 The Denver Post Corporation
July 3, 1999 Saturday 2D EDITION
SECTION: DENVER & THE WEST; Pg. B-01
LENGTH: 523 words
Blue pill a boon to both sexes
BYLINE: By Diane Carman
I know, I know, it's hard
to believe. But face it, erectile dysfunction is the best thing to happen to
women's reproductive health care since the invention of the birth control pill.
Even before Bob Dole began pitching Viagra on national TV, men across
the country were clamoring for the little blue pills.
drug has been the pharmaceutical sensation of the last two years.
was no surprise when health care insurers, eager to keep their participating
CEOs happy, began offering coverage for the pills, which cost up to $ 10 apiece.
Sure, nobody ever died of impotence, but that doesn't mean it's an
insignificant problem. Just ask Dole.
Covering the cost of Viagra is the
right thing to do.
But that decision laid bare some patently unfair
policies. The good ol' boy insurers got caught with their hypocrisy showing.
For more than 25 years, a majority of the health care goons across the
country have steadfastly refused to pay for contraceptives for women.
For 66 percent of health care insurance plans nationwide, that coverage
was deemed "too expensive."
Oral contraceptives cost about $ 20 a month,
and prices vary for alternatives such as IUDs, diaphragms, Depo Provera and
Viagra, in contrast, was considered a bargain at any
The inequity of those policies really should come as no surprise
to anyone. After all, these are the same folks who 20-some years ago had to be
forced by legislative action to cover the costs of pregnancy and childbirth.
Before then, maternity care was considered a non-essential medical
The personal and social consequences of denying coverage of
contraceptives are far from inconsequential. An estimated 50 percent of all
pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, and half of those unplanned pregnancies
end in abortion.
In Colorado, legislators have been curiously silent on
A study done by Planned Parenthood in December 1997 found
that 28 percent of the state's largest employers did not provide coverage for
the most common forms of contraception, and, given the cost, it's fair to assume
that small businesses would be even less likely to provide that coverage.
Elsewhere the "contraceptive equity" campaign has stormed several state
From Vermont to Hawaii, strange bedfellows from both
parties have joined forces to get measures passed before the unfair situation
completely alienates women voters.
In the U.S. Congress, the "Equity in
Prescription Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage Act,"
sponsored by Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, died of neglect in the last session.
But as the election season looms larger, the issue is expected to get
more attention. Snowe reintroduced the bill last month.
When it finally
passes and insurers are required to provide coverage for something that is an
essential, expensive, everyday fact of life for millions of women, we'll know
that it was not justice that was on the lawmakers' minds when they voted for it.
The Viagra made them do it.
Diane Carman's commentaries appear
here Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
LOAD-DATE: July 06, 1999