By Caroline Young | CYoung1@flagler.edu
Nearly half of all pregnancies in America are unintended.
Stefanie Kunkel, the executive director of the Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, says that she often witnesses pregnant young women who could not afford birth control when they needed it. She says it is common in college-aged women than in working women.
“It happens quite a bit in years where college students are transitioning off of their parents’ health insurance plans and moving into their own or coverage through the school that doesn’t cover contraception,” she said.
Approximately one-third of four-year colleges provide prescription drug coverage, but only half of those plans include contraception.
Flagler sophomore Laura Mcknight is insured by All State, but pays $78 plus tax every month to refill her Yaz birth control. Mcknight would like to see birth control included in all health care plans, because she knows it would prevent unwanted pregnancies for girls who are unable to pay what she does.
“A girl who went to my doctor for birth control was prescribed Yaz and stopped refilling because her mother made her pay for it by herself,” Mcknight said. “A few months later, she came back to my doctor for a pregnancy test and was pregnant.”
Twenty-seven states currently have a Contraceptive Equity law, which means insurance companies that cover prescription drugs must provide coverage for contraception. Florida is not one of them.
Jack Boyd, who has his own insurance business in St. Augustine, says that Contraceptive Equity legislation would definitely increase health insurance costs in general. He pointed out that one of the reasons Florida’s health insurance is higher than other states is because of insurers being required to cover monthly mammography for women over 40.
Boyd says the costs for birth control in every health care plan will have to come from somebody’s pocket.
“It’s just simple business,” he said. “Anytime you ask for an insurance company to pay for something, it has to generate money from somewhere, so it comes from the premiums.”
According to Medicinenet.com, the Health Insurance Association of America estimated it would cost $16 person to provide birth control coverage.
Kunkel believes that health care costs would drop if Florida passed the Contraceptive Equality law, because the cost of unintended pregnancies is more than an annual cycle of birth control.
“The cost to produce a pack of pills is estimated at about a penny to 10 cents a pack, so the vast mark-up when people are paying $50 for birth control goes to the pharmaceutical companies.”
She says insurance companies have the right to provide whatever they feel is in the best interest for the company, but thinks it would be in their favor.
“Often times that unintended pregnancy can result in higher costs for insurance companies.”
The NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation reports that insurers usually pay the medical costs of unintended pregnancy, including full-term pregnancies for $8619, miscarriages for $1038 or abortion for $416.
Boyd does not that think contraception has anything to do with pregnancy coverage. “Pregnancy is a condition that involves a person who has already conceived,” he said.
Flagler graduate Kelly Lawson is insured by Blue Cross Blue Shield, who covers most of her Lo- Estrin birth control costs. She thinks having a baby or an abortion is much more expensive than birth control.
“The complications that result from abortion can also lead to more medical attention or infertility, Lawson said. “It’s a preventive medication that also prevents insurance companies from paying more for girls going through pre-natal care and the actual delivery.”
Lawson is fresh out of college and landed her first real-world job where she had to choose a new medical plan. She observed that medical plans cost a monthly average of $200 more for females than males.
“They are getting plenty of money from us females from monthly payments to cover these costs,” she said.
Kunkel thinks that if insurance companies provide certain services to men, it would be sexual discrimination if birth control coverage was not included. She says that when drugs like Viagra are covered, birth control should be too.
“There is a vast majority of males on our legislature who may not see our correlation,” Kunkel said.
Sherry Bugnet works for the Bailey Group of St. Augustine, an affiliate of Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance. From Bugnet’s standpoint, when insurance companies do not include birth control coverage, it is far from sexist.
“Condoms are not covered, so it is the opposite of sexual discrimination,” she said.
Although over half the states require insurers to provide coverage of FDA approved contraceptives, many of them allow exceptions to this rule. Several states in the US have insurance policies that allow employers or insurers to refuse to cover contraceptives on moral or religious standards.
Bugnet says the Bailey Group has a variety of carriers and the one that does not include birth control in their plan is the Catholic Church. She thinks that this issue is becoming more of a religious debate.
“I happen to work directly with the diocese and I understand the stance the Catholic Church has against it,” Bugnet said.
The NARAL Foundation reports that about half of all Americans that have insurance coverage are employed by people who choose self-insured plans, which can be exempt from contraceptive equity laws under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
Kunkel and the Planned Parenthood of Florida are working on a two part bill called the Prevention First Act, which requires emergency rooms to provide rape survivors with information about emergency contraception.
“It’s not an abortion pill, but it is a high-dosage birth control pill that must be taken within 120 hours after sex,” Kunkel said.
The Prevention First Act also makes sure that every woman gets her birth control filled at pharmacies right away without discrimination.
Whether Florida will ever have the Contraceptive Equity law or not continues to be a controversial issue, but Kunkel says that it would benefit everyone including the insurance companies.
“We would be insuring that every pregnancy is a wanted pregnancy,” Kunkel said.