As part of the Affordable Care Act, a federal requirement for private health plans to cover contraceptive methods, services and counseling, without any out-of-pocket costs to patients, took effect for millions of Americans in January 2013.
Data for this study come from a subset of the 3207 women aged 18–39 years who responded to two waves of a national longitudinal survey. This analysis focused on the 889 women who were using hormonal contraceptive methods in both the fall 2012 and spring 2013 waves and the 343 women who used the intrauterine device at either wave. Women were asked about the amount they paid out of pocket in an average month for their method of choice.
Between Wave 1 and Wave 2, the proportion of privately insured women paying zero dollars out of pocket for oral contraceptives increased substantially, from 15% to 40%; by contrast, there was no significant change among publicly insured or uninsured women (whose coverage was not affected by the new federal requirement). Similar changes were seen among privately insured women using the vaginal ring.
The initial implementation of the federal contraceptive coverage requirement appears to have had a notable impact on the out-ofpocket costs paid by privately insured women. Additional progress is likely as the requirement phases in to apply to more private plans, but with evidence that not all methods are being treated equally, policymakers should consider stepped-up oversight and enforcement of the provision.
This study measures the out-of-pocket costs for women with private, public and no insurance prior to the federal contraceptive coverage requirement and after it took effect; in doing so, it highlights areas of progress in eliminating these costs and areas that need further progress