Free birth control Aug. 1? Your chances of getting the Pill for $0
Here’s the most exciting news since your tax refund (at least if you’re a woman): Starting Aug. 1, you could be eligible for free birth control — “the Pill,” condoms, NuvaRing, you name it. Remember Obama mentioning last year that health plans would have to cover preventive services for women? That day has finally come — and you can thank that damn Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that everyone keeps complaining about.
But unfortunately, it’s unlikely you can sashay into Walgreens without your wallet just yet. Our favorite new piece of legislation only applies to new and/or re-enrolled plans — meaning you don’t get to walk away from the pharmacy counter bill-free until your plan is renewed again (or you get a new plan) after tomorrow.
Depending on your employer, your plan year could start tomorrow, in January or later in the year. If you’re enrolled under a student health plan or work for a university, you might be in luck; many school and university healthcare plan years begin around Aug. 1, according to Jezebel.
But back to the good news: We’re not just talking about free contraception, in case you forgot the details announced last summer. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, health plans beginning after Aug. 1 will cover the following preventive services:
- “Well-woman visits” — These are essentially your yearly physicals to make sure everything’s in tip-top shape. It also includes mammograms and preconception and prenatal care. If you get your yearly well-woman visit and your doctor requests you come back for more testing or other preventive services, those visits are also covered.
- Gestational diabetes screening — This applies to women who are 24 to 28 weeks pregnant or at risk for developing gestational diabetes to protect them and their children.
- Testing for human papillomavirus — Whether they get their yearly pap or not, women ages 30 years and older will have access to a DNA test for HPV, a sexually transmitted virus that can lead to cervical cancer, once every three years.
- Screening and counseling for sexually transmitted infections — STI counseling is covered once a year under the act because it’s been shown to reduce high-risk behaviors in sexually active women. STI counseling and screening includes human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, which affects more than 1 million people in the United States.
- All contraceptive methods and sterilization procedures — This means condoms, “The Pill” and any other contraception methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration are covered under the act. Sterilization procedures — such as tubal ligation, or “getting your tubes tied” — also falls under preventive services, as do patient education and counseling for all “women with reproductive capacity.”
- Breast-feeding support, supplies and counseling — Women will have access to trained lactation consultants and supplies in order to ensure successful breast-feeding. Planning on having more than one kid? You’re covered for every birth.
- Screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence — According to WebMD, 25% of U.S. women experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. Now women — no matter what their financial situation — will have access to care and intervention.
If you weren’t lucky enough to have a health plan that starts on Aug.1 of every year — or if you’re insured through a religious institution that disapproves of the new law — see below for when the new rule applies to you:
- If you’re uninsured (and not on Medicaid): You’ll have to wait until 2014 when everyone will either have to buy insurance or pay the penalty.
- If you’re ensured through a religious institution: Religious organizations who take issue with the new law get an extra year to adhere to the new requirements, so they can choose to wait until 2013.
- If you’re insured but don’t know when your plan year begins: When was the last time you had to fill out those annoying insurance forms? That was the beginning of your plan year. Ask your human resources department or call your insurance company if you’re still unsure.
- If you’re insured under a “grandfathered plan”: Grandfathered plans, according to the National Council of Jewish Women, are those that existed prior to March 23, 2010 — when the Affordable Care Act was signed — and have not made significant changes to their benefits or cost-sharing requirements. These plans are not affected by some of the new rules, including coverage of these preventive services. However, NCJW explained, by 2014, most grandfathered plans will be considered “new” under the act, and these requirements will take effect.