I made Planned Parenthood Columbia/Willamette spokeswoman Liz Delapoer repeat the news for me twice, slowly, because it seemed too good to true.
"Okay," I said. "Let me get this straight. Under the provisions of the healthcare bill that kick in Wednesday, if I have insurance, I can walk into a clinic, meet with a doctor, be prescribed birth control, and get the birth control and none of that will cost me a dime out of pocket?"
"Yes," said Delapoer.
"Wow," I said. "That's amazing." I've gotten used to being disappointed in the Affordable Care Act, to—for example—talking with friends have to live for another year with chronic pain while they hold out until insurance companies will be mandated to accept people with pre-existing conditions. The healthcare bar is so low that I'm easily astounded by any good news. But what the half-assed act does for birth control coverage is unequivocally great.
For those of us lucky enough to have insurance, as of Wednesday, August 1st, our policies are obligated to cover the cost of office visits and prescriptions for birth control without a co-pay. The changes cover all types of birth control (from the pill to IUDs), though insurance companies can decide to cover only generic brands of birth controls instead of the brand-name stuff. The changes will kick in whenever your policy is renewed. Healthcare is complicated, so to clearly communicate the impact of change, I made this picture:
Of course, the big caveat here is that the change does not directly help uninsured women. Birth control is about five times more expensive without insurance, though funds from Title X cover the cost for many low-income women. Only 16 percent of the women our local Planned Parenthood sees use commercial insurance to pay for their visit, which means this great change is still leaving a lot of women in the lurch. This is that low bar I was talking about.