Are people really that divided over mandated health coverage of birth control?

OB/GYN talks about new poll showing that 7 in 10 Americans support universal contraceptive coverage

BLOGBirthControlAs Obamacare’s contraceptive coverage is challenged in the Supreme Court, we’ve been hearing a lot about the issue from the media, lawmakers and policy experts. Our team of researchers wanted to hear from the general public: What do Americans support when it comes to health plan coverage?

In a recent national poll, we asked people to share their opinions about whether health plans should be required to cover different types of health services, including mammograms, colonoscopies, vaccines, dental care, mental health services, screening for diabetes and high cholesterol, and birth control medications.

What we found is that a clear majority – nearly 7 out of every 10 U.S. adults – support requirements for coverage of birth control medications in all health insurance plans.

More about our findings:

Two-thirds (69 percent) of Americans support universal coverage of contraceptive care

Many preventive health services help save lives and improve people’s quality of life. Affordable birth control has also been linked to improved maternal and child medical outcomes, which is one reason why it was included in the Affordable Care Act as one type of service that people should be able to access with a copay.  However, requiring private plans to cover birth control has been controversial.

Given the intense public debate we’ve heard on the news and read in the newspaper, some may be surprised by how many more Americans actually support it than don’t. Our findings indicate that people may not be as divided on this issue as we think— a majority of U.S. adults believe this is an important part of health plans.

Support for mandated coverage was even higher for other medical services

We found that there is a high level of support for all the health services included in our study.

Public support for required coverage was highest for mammograms and colonoscopies (85%), followed by recommended vaccinations (84%), screening tests for diabetes and high cholesterol (82%), mental health care (77%), and dental care (75%).

Women, blacks, Hispanics and parents with children at home were more likely to support the mandate than other Americans

We found that the groups most likely to support birth control coverage are women, racial-ethnic minorities, and parents of children under age 18. This suggests that support is higher among individuals who may be more likely to directly benefit from more affordable birth control.

In my own practice, I have encountered many patients who cannot afford the birth control method that will be safest and most effective for them. Making birth control affordable for everyone could fundamentally change this situation for women and families.

We know that about half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended and that cost is one factor that prevents many women from using more effective contraceptives.  Making birth control medications available without a co-pay has been shown to reduce unplanned pregnancies. Our study suggests that a majority of Americans support a national requirement that all health insurance plans cover birth control medications.

Why people’s attitudes about this benefit matter

Health policies may have a better chance of improving the nation’s health when policies reflect the views and preferences of the majority of Americans. When it comes to contraception, the findings from our poll are clear: a majority of Americans support a policy requiring health insurance plans to cover birth control medications.

Understanding the public’s beliefs about birth control coverage is vitally important to our efforts to reduce the unplanned pregnancy rate in this country and improve health outcomes for women and families.

We know there are many opinions about this issue and we encourage you to share yours in the comments.

Take the next step:

MichelleMonizBLOGMichelle Moniz, MD, is an Obstetrician-Gynecologist who grew up in Los Angeles, California. She earned her undergraduate degree in Biology and English from the Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Moniz studied medicine at Washington University in Saint Louis and went on to complete her residency training with the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh/Magee-Women’s Hospital. She sees patients at the Brighton Health Center. She is also a member of U-M’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.


university of michigan women's hospitalUniversity of Michigan Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital opened in December 2011, offering women a state-of-the-art place to welcome their babies to the world in the most caring and comfortable way possible.  From private rooms to birthing tubs, each feature was designed around mom and baby’s every need.  Learn more at www.UofMhealth.org/birthcenter.