Planned Parenthood of Illinois announced Friday that clinics across the state are offering free birth control for one year to eligible patients who can’t afford the cost, amid increasing attempts by the Trump administration to restrict contraceptive access and funding nationwide.
The new Access Birth Control initiative will cover injectable birth control, vaginal rings, oral contraceptive pills and condoms, as well as long-acting reversible contraceptives like an intrauterine device or implant, said Planned Parenthood of Illinois spokeswoman Julie Lynn.
This allows patients to use the method of birth control they prefer rather than automatically selecting the cheapest option, Lynn said. For example, IUDs are a highly effective form of long-term birth control but might be more expensive than other types.
“A lot of the time, people will get the method that’s most cost-effective rather than the method that’s best for them,” she said. “We want everyone to have access to their preferred method of birth control without cost as a barrier.”
Eligible patients include those who are uninsured and pay out of pocket or who can’t afford birth control even on a sliding-fee scale, Lynn said. Some patients have private health insurance that doesn’t cover contraceptives, or they have a high unmet deductible; sometimes youths might not want to use their parents’ health insurance due to confidentiality concerns. This would also cover the cost for patients who are not eligible for Medicaid, including undocumented immigrants, she said.
Lynn said the agency has no cost projections for the initiative, which is funded by private philanthropy. The initiative will be in place until 2021, but birth control is offered free to individual patients for only a year. Patients are still responsible for the cost of the clinic visit.
“Increasing access to affordable and comprehensive healthcare remains our priority, despite the challenges of America’s complex health system,” Jennifer Welch, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois, said in a news release.
The initiative comes as the nation grapples with birth control coverage and access.
While the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act expanded access to no-cost contraception, the Trump administration issued new rules allowing more employers to opt out by claiming religious objections. However, a federal judge last month blocked these changes nationwide just before they were scheduled to take effect.
The U.S. Department of Justice has argued that the new rules would “protect a narrow class of sincere religious and moral objectors from being forced to facilitate practices that conflict with their beliefs.”
Use of long-acting reversible birth control like IUDs spiked nearly 22 percent in the aftermath of the November 2016 election of Donald Trump, according to new research published earlier this month in JAMA Internal Medicine. Anecdotal reports in the media had indicated that women were rushing out to secure these types of birth control, fearing future restrictions.
The Associated Press contributed.
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February 8, 2019 at 04:30PM