Insurance companies must accept all forms of federally approved methods of birth control for women free of charge or co-payments, the Obama administration announced Monday in a series of guidelines on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Responding to reports that insurance companies were skirting requirements to cover all contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the Obama administration sought to erase any ambiguity over what forms of birth control fall under the free-coverage mandate.
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"As the law has been implemented, issues have been raised by some women and from members of Congress that insurance companies were not covering the contraceptive method recommended by doctors, as well as concerns from issuers that the existing guidance did not provide enough detail about how specific types of contraception should be covered," the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.
The rule clarification comes after a pair of reports -- issued separately by the nonprofit group the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) and the Kaiser Family Foundation -- uncovered instances where insurers skimped on contraceptive coverage, forcing some women to pay more or choose alternatives other than their preferred birth control method.
Gretchen Borchelt, vice president for health and reproductive rights at NWLC, welcomed the guidance Monday as a sign the administration would step up enforcement of the requirements.
"It is now absolutely clear that all means all-- all unique birth control methods for women must be covered," Borchelt said in a statement.
In recent weeks, top Democrats in Congress have pressed the White House to clarify the guidelines and empower states to take enforcement action when necessary. Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the senior Democrat on the Senate health committee, on Monday said she was pleased with the progress.
“Today’s announcement is an important step toward making it clear that all insurance companies should follow the rules and provide women with the health care they are entitled to, including access to all forms of FDA-approved contraceptive methods," Murray said in a statement.