The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced new guidelines in Washington Monday requiring health insurance plans beginning on or after August 1, 2012 to cover several women’s preventive services, including birth control and voluntary sterilization.
They’re calling this a “broad expansion” on Obama’s healthcare plan. I remember the plan talking about more coverage for “preventive” medicine, but nothing this sweeping for women (maybe I missed something – it wasn’t that easy to find details at the time, interestingly).
Y’all, this is a really big deal. And not just for women who want to plan their families or lack thereof, but to women with health issues requiring birth control pills. These women have typically been excluded from coverage for and/or had to pay the same (often huge) co-pays as women taking the pill to avoid pregnancy – and largely because the conservative element in this country doesn’t care who it hurts in its rush to punish women for having sex [with someone other than them]. (I’ll just say this in passing: there isn’t a Tea Party member who wouldn’t chuck a hundred thousand fetuses under a bus for a nickel, as long as they’re not related to his richest voters. I’m really sick of these assholes using religion to hurt people, and I’m sick of religious people not getting that they’re being played for fools by them. Rant over.)
Did anybody else have to read this from three different sources before she could bring herself to believe it? I did. I guess I’d given up on anything this progressive ever happening in the U.S. That said, the new guidelines won’t help everybody (from the above CNN link):
The Obama administration released an amendment to the prevention regulation that allows religious institutions offering health insurance to their employees the choice of whether or not to cover contraception services.
That’s unfair to women who work for religious-related organizations that have no expectation of their employees actually sharing their religious views (then again, with the right pressure, maybe those organizations will offer the new coverage). But this seems to be the only concession to conservatives, and I’m rather amazed by that after watching in disgust as Democrats spent most of the past 18 years giving up way more than necessary to these asshole bigots, even when they had a majority. Check out a conservative response to this concession:
“It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough,” said Jeanne Monahan, a policy expert for the conservative Family Research Council. As it now stands, the conscience clause offers only a “fig leaf” of protection, she added, because it may not cover faith-based groups engaged in social action and other activities that do not involve worship.
Yeah. Because when your church is, say, busy lobbying to control the government it doesn’t pay taxes to, you don’t want to be paying for birth control, too. Pay your enormous income taxes, dear churches, thereby putting the US back into a surplus in a single quarter, and maybe then we’ll talk. Until then, your entitlement and privilege are showing. Render unto Caesar, Christian.
As for uninsured women, supposedly Medicaid has them covered, though I’m not familiar enough with it to know how well it does the job. [ETA: see here for Sylvia Sybil's personal experience with it.]
This new guideline also won’t do you any good under your present policy. The L.A. Times reports:
The guidelines go into effect on Monday, requiring insurers to provide free coverage of preventive care services for women in all new plans beginning in August 2012.
And the government page laying out the details says:
These guidelines are effective August 1, 2011. Accordingly, non-grandfathered plans and issuers are required to provide coverage without cost sharing consistent with these guidelines in the first plan year (in the individual market, policy year) that begins on or after August 1, 2012.
So your existing policy, if you’re lucky enough to have one, is under a “grandfather clause” exempting it from complying. But I would recommend that employees pressure their employers to bargain until they get this coverage added to existing policies. This may be the beginning of a cultural shift – the natural backlash to the conservative bullshit that was the narcissistic male’s backlash to feminism. The more we push it, the further it’ll go before the pendulum starts swinging back.
It sounds like every single birth control pill and device is to be covered, free to the patient. This is awesome, since one woman’s perfect birth control pill is another woman’s side effect nightmare from hell, and some women can’t tolerate pills at all. And there’s a lot more to this than free birth control. Free wellness exams, free gestational diabetes screening, human papillomavirus testing, STD counseling, costs for renting breastfeeding equipment, counseling for domestic abuse and more.
And yes, the morning after pill is covered. Really.
It’s the government, so there will probably be some bugs in the execution. But the spirit of this new guideline is just… wow. It’s saying women are valuable to the government even if religion considers them expendable vending machines that dole out babies to men. It’s saying the U.S. has a ridiculously high infant mortality rate for a developed nation, and that’s got to stop. It’s suggesting that reproductive choices are a right for women, not a privilege. It’s recognizing that abstinence isn’t a practical form of birth control, especially given how common rape is in this country. It… I think it’s saying a whole lot more to me, but it’ll be days before it all unwinds in my head.
And research suggests the public is behind this new guideline. That’s reassuring too, because conservatives will attack it legally. A lot of judges will side with them, so a lack of cultural support – the kind that makes elected folk worry about the next election – is the best tool to use against them.
Remember when religion wasn’t supposed to be part of US politics, because we all believed in the separation of church and state? Yeah, some of you are probably too young. Welcome back to a glimmer of the path this country used to be on before the Southern Baptists bought the Republican Party in 1979 and declared war on everybody but “right”-thinking white men. No way am I saying wow, we’re done, we’re home free – I’m very much hoping this is just the beginning, because a whole lot more needs to be done, both for women and for the general good of the country.
I’m just saying: that’s a pretty damn good beginning.