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Employers Ordered to Increase Coverage of Birth Control


Since the ruling is only binding on the two women who filed the complaints, women's health advocates say they are looking at possible further lawsuits -- or for Congress to pass a law guaranteeing such coverage to all women.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey of employers that was released in September, 60% of employer fee-for-service plans cover birth control pills. That percentage rose to 87% for HMO plans, 62% for point-of-service plans, and 75% for PPOs.

Employer representatives are not happy with the decision. Kate Sullivan, director of healthcare policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, tells WebMD, "There needs to be an element of personal responsibility, that if you don't want to have a baby, you need to take those steps. If it's not covered by your employer, you need to take that financial responsibility. When you have every single cost covered, you're going to wind up saying, 'Gee, my health plan has gotten awfully expensive.'"

Paul Fronstin, PhD, a senior research associate at the Employee Benefits Research Institute, tells WebMD, "It's hard to make the discrimination argument. A lot of women already have this coverage." He allowed, "The cost of the mandate isn't going to be that high, since most people are already paying for it."

He says, "It's no surprise that employers would fight this, even if it's something that they already offer. Here we are mandating benefits on a voluntary system. It restricts them from taking it away someday ... and it sets another precedent for more rulings like this that will add another layer of costs someday."

The commission rejected cost concern arguments in its decision, saying that discrimination law doesn't give employers a financial excuse as a way out.


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