Skip to content

Birth Control Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Covering Birth Control

Why one woman sued.

WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Craig H. Kliger, MD

Sept. 4, 2000 -- When Seattle pharmacist Jennifer Erickson returned to work in late July one day after filing a headline-grabbing lawsuit against her employer, the Bartell Drug Co., her female co-workers were ecstatic. "It was all high fives and 'You go, girl!' " Erickson says with a laugh. Her customers thanked her. Strangers who recognized her from interviews in the local and national media stopped her on the street.

So why is this 26-year old suing her own employer -- and getting so much attention and support from her co-workers and customers? Erickson is challenging one of the longest-standing disparities in medicine. She thinks it's wrong that the health insurance plans offered by so many companies across the country provide coverage for drugs like Viagra for men but don't cover birth control pills and other contraceptives. And she thinks changes are long overdue.

Recommended Related to Birth Control

Birth Control and Depo-Provera

Birth control is a way for men and women to prevent pregnancy. There are many different methods of birth control; some types also help protect against sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs. Depo-Provera does not protect against STDs. Depo-Provera is a birth control method for women. It is made up of a hormone similar to progesterone and is given as an injection by a doctor into the woman's arm or buttocks. Each shot provides protection against pregnancy for up to 12 to 14 weeks, but the shot...

Read the Birth Control and Depo-Provera article > >

To try to close this gender gap, Erickson volunteered to be the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit filed last month by Planned Parenthood -- the first case ever seeking to force an employer to include contraceptives in its health plan. While the lawsuit targets only Bartell, it could pave the way for similar suits against every company in the United States that provides similar prescription coverage to its employees but fails to cover contraceptives.

"This problem affects millions of women all over the country," says Sylvia A. Law, a law professor at New York University. "Yet it's the first time the issue has ever been addressed in a court -- and it's high time." Law was the first to argue in a 1998 Washington Law Review article that excluding contraceptives from prescription coverage illegally discriminates against women under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act.

Three-quarters of American women of childbearing age rely on employer-sponsored plans for their health coverage, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a research group that works to broaden access to family planning services. Yet half of all large group-insurance plans do not cover any form of prescription contraception, and only a third cover the Pill. While most HMOs do cover oral contraception, only about 40% cover all five of the FDA-approved prescription birth control methods available in this country.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Today on WebMD

IUD
Here's what to expect.
man opening condom wrapper
Do you know the right way to use them?
 
birth control pills
Here's what to do next.
doctor and patient
His and her options.
 
Forgot To Take Your Birth Control Pills
Article
hospital gown
Quiz
 
Birth Control Pills Weight Gain
Article
Ortho Evra Birth Control Patch
Article
 
Comparing Birth Control Pill
Article
New Birth Control Pill
Video
 
HPV Vaccine Future
Article
Young couple holding hands
Quiz