Under the Affordable Care Act, all birth control is not free

News 12 at 11 / Tuesday, November 19, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- It's been 50 days since the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, a health care overhaul that was intended to give everyone better coverage, especially women. One of the top benefits for young women is access to free preventative care, including birth control, but some young women are finding that's not the case.

In fact, many women are finding their preferred brand of birth control is not covered, hiking up a hefty bill each month and sometimes forcing women to choose between their own safety and a lower bill.

"As a segment to our society, women are often ignored," said Dr. Donna Adams-Pickett, Augusta Women's Health and Wellness Center.

So, when the Affordable Care Act came out with a section of benefits just for women, females everywhere were excited. The website healthcare.gov touted lower monthly premiums, fair gender pricing, and free preventative care, including birth control.

"With the Affordable Care Act, things like the Nuva Ring, patches, IUDs are now covered at 100 percent," Dr. Adams-Pickett said.

It's an offer many thought was too good to be true. Dr. Adams-Pickett says for some women, there is a catch.

"Not all birth control pills are covered," she admitted.

It's a statement that has become a harsh reality for many women as the dust has cleared on the Affordable Care Act. If you read it carefully, the law says health plans can use "reasonable medical management" techniques when providing coverage of contraceptives. That means brand name drugs are covered only if there's not a generic equivalent.

For some, the new law is doing more harm than help.

"I'm now not covered for birth control," Kelly Schroeder said.

Twenty-two year old Kelly Schroeder is one of the unlucky ones.

"I now have to pay 50 dollars a month, so it's an extra 600 dollars a year, where when you're used to zero, it's a big shock," she said.

She says she used to not even bring her wallet to the pharmacy. Now, she's pinching every penny to pay this new price.

"It is a little stressful. We're doing this for groceries, we're doing this for rent, and now this is being added," Schroeder explained.

Switching to a different birth control is not as easy as it seems. It can cause complications for some women.

"I had very bad side effects. I had shortness of breath, and I was in denial because I wanted this to work, and I would ignore it. Then eventually, I had to go to the hospital," Schroeder admitted.

"There are over 70 different kinds of birth control pills. Sometimes it takes us months to find the right one for the patient that doesn't have side effects, that the patient can tolerate, that does not create nausea or create irregular bleeding," Dr. Adams-Pickett said.

It's causing some women to choose between their own health and a lower bill. Dr. Adams-Pickett says either way, they're paying the price.

"What we're finding is that many of the insurance plans are putting many of their eggs in the basket of the generic pills that may cost a lot less, but are not well tolerated. And then we have patients taking medications that just don't work well for them because they're cheaper," she said.

For Schroeder, she's determined to stay on the pill that works for her, but she says there's still one side effect that won't go away.

"Guilt," she said. "Because Travis doesn't have to be on it. He doesn't have to deal with this. He doesn't have to take birth control, so it's like, I do feel guilty, because it's me, it's my fault we have these added expenses."

The government argues that even if you do have to pay for your contraceptive, it'll cost less than paying for maternity care if you were to have a child. Dr. Adams-Pickett says that's like comparing apples to oranges.

Plus, if women choose to switch to the cheaper, generic version of birth control, and then have complications, that could cause more healthcare costs.

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