Happy free birth control day! President Obama's free birth control mandate begins today, but before you get your hopes up there are some important things to know about what it means for you. A part of Obama's healthcare reform stipulates that private insurance companies must be required to provide contraception without copays beginning today, Aug. 1, so here's what you need to know about taking advantage of this new policy:
- It's more than birth control: Under Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA), new insurance plans must cover a variety of services for women at no out-of-pocket costs. These include domestic violence counseling, cervical cancer screenings, FDA-approved contraception, STI screenings, breastfeeding supplies, and a "well woman" visit with her healthcare provider.
- You have to be insured: You must already have a private insurance plan to qualify, either through your work or school, or through the employer of your spouse or parent. Uninsured women will have to wait until 2014 for the free services, when the ACA requires everyone to have insurance.
- Women on Medicaid may be denied: For now, it's up to each state to decide whether women on Medicaid plans will receive the services at no cost.
- It's not just religious institutions who oppose it: Religious institutions opposed to free birth control have been allowed to wait another year while all parties involved come to a compromise — even though Obama already made a compromise in February. So if you work for a religiously affiliated organization it may be a year (or more) until the policy goes into effect. But it's not just religious employers getting an out, private business owners with personal religious beliefs may also be able to deny coverage.
- You need to know when your plan starts: The copay-free contraception mandate only applies to new and reenrolled plans that start today or after. So to find out when you'll be able to receive free birth control you need to find out when your plan starts by either contacting your HR rep or insurance company. Most employee plans begin Jan. 1, while luckily for students, many school and university plans begin Aug. 1.
- Watch out for grandfathered plans: If you have a "grandfathered plan" — meaning one that began before March 23, 2010, and hasn't changed since then — you may have to wait until 2014, when those plans will be considered new under the ACA.