I appreciated the Gazette's recent editorial (Aug. 4) highlighting the additional preventive measures for women that will be required to be provided without being charged a deductible or copayment under the Affordable Care Act. These measures include well woman visits, screenings and counseling for domestic violence, counseling and supplies for breastfeeding, and access to all FDA-approved contraceptives.
The recommendation that all FDA-approved contraceptives be covered for women did not originate with the Obama Administration. This recommendation was originally made by the prestigious Institute of Medicine. The institute based their recommendation for expanding access to contraceptives on two important public health considerations.
First, the institute found that contraceptives allow women to space their pregnancies. Women who have two pregnancies within an 18-month period have more premature babies and more low-weight babies. Secondly, greater access to contraceptives allows women (and men) to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
The institute cited a study finding that 42 percent of all unwanted pregnancies end in abortion. This is a stunning number, and one that we should all work to reduce.
I believe that most people would agree with a statement made by President Clinton: "Abortions should be safe, legal and rare." Abortions are safe. And while abortions are currently legal, the fight over this issue is ongoing. But abortions are clearly not rare.
Regardless if you are pro-choice or pro-life, the common ground on the abortion debate should be an effort to reduce the numbers of abortions. Implementing this portion of the Affordable Care Act and providing women greater access to birth control measures is an important initiative for achieving a goal that should be shared by all sides of the abortion issue.
It is not just greater access to contraceptives benefits that is likely to occur when women have access to all FDA-approved contraceptives without a deductible or copayment. Women will now have greater access to more effective birth control measures.
The pill is the mostly widely used contraceptive measure in the United States. The pill requires a very high degree of compliance by women, and as a result it is not nearly as effective as other measures such as intrauterine devices that don't rely on women remembering to take the pill throughout the month. The typical use of the pill results in an annual rate of unintended pregnancy of 9 percent, while IUDs have rates of less than 1percent.
IUDs do have high up-front cost that previously discouraged women, particularly low-income women, from utilizing this highly effective birth control measure. Removing this financial barrier will allow women to have greater access to more effective birth control measures further reducing unwanted pregnancies.
The new preventive measures for women are only one piece of the Affordable Care Act's renewed emphasis on prevention. Men and women will have access to cholesterol screening; flu shots for seniors are covered; type two diabetes screenings for people with high blood pressure are included; all the recommended childhood immunizations are covered, etc. A complete list of all of the preventive measures that are being provided with no deducible or copayment can be found on West Virginians for Affordable Health Care's website, wvahc.org.
When someone advocates repealing "Obamacare," they are advocating for more than the loss of greater access to contraceptives for women. They also advocate returning our health-care system to one that responds primarily to illness and injury rather than reforming our system to focus on prevention and keeping people healthy. This may be viewed by some as good politics, but it is a shortsighted and unwise public policy.
Bryant is director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care.