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53,000 Colorado Women Face Rollback of Birth Control Benefits

Colorado's teen birth rate and number of abortions have dropped, and experts credit improved access to birth control. (Tim Matsui/Getty Images)
Colorado's teen birth rate and number of abortions have dropped, and experts credit improved access to birth control. (Tim Matsui/Getty Images)
November 1, 2017

DENVER - Open enrollment for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act starts today, but women in Colorado and across the United States could find themselves paying a lot more out of pocket for birth control.

President Donald Trump recently cleared the way for employers to remove contraceptive care from their health plans, and Emily Johnson, senior policy and statistical analyst for the Colorado Health Institute, said 53,000 women in the state could end up without prescription birth-control coverage.

"The Affordable Care Act also requires insurance plans to treat that birth control as a preventive health service for women," she said, "meaning that it has to be a no-cost service that women can get for all of the major forms of contraception."

In October, the Trump administration issued rules that would allow companies to deny workers health insurance for birth control, arguing that employers with religious or moral objections to contraception should not have to pay for coverage.

A survey of women who own small businesses found that many see access to birth control as a critical factor for career advancement and launching companies. Emily Dewey, outreach manager for the Small Business Majority, which commissioned the poll, said access to affordable birth control is more than a health issue.

"Having this access to a critical piece of health care, through access to birth control, can make or break the difference for a woman to be able to start a business or grow a business and become a big player and a job creator in today's economy," she said.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the state's teen birth rate and number of abortions have dropped significantly because of improved access to family-planning services. Johnson said companies that didn't cover contraception before the ACA could be reluctant to roll back the benefit.

"Once people have a new health-insurance benefit, it's a lot harder to take it away from them than it is to just never provide it in the first place," she said, "And so, we don't know for certain that every woman who didn't have coverage for contraception before is going to lose it."

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a health-care workers' union to block the new rules.

The CHI analysis is online at coloradohealthinstitute.org, the survey is at smallbusinessmajority.org, and the CDPHE report is at colorado.gov.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO