Having grown up in Utah there are many things I love about my home state: mountains, the University of Utah (my alma mater), and red rocks. And now I get to add increased access to family planning services, including access to Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs) to the list!
Earlier this week the Utah Legislature passed H.B. 12, which requires the state to create a Medicaid family planning program for those who make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces. Approximately 45,000 women in Utah fall in this coverage gap and are without insurance coverage, including coverage of birth control. H.B. 12 is a small but important step that would help to close the gap for birth control coverage by working to ensure Utahns have coverage of the high-quality family planning services Medicaid already covers such as birth control pills, LARCs, and sterilization services.
Coverage of birth control is critical, because without coverage, out-of-pocket costs can lead women to use birth control inconsistently or forego birth control completely. Even costs as low as $6 can deter women, but the most effective birth control methods, like IUDs, can have extremely high upfront costs. The upfront costs of an IUD without health insurance coverage is nearly a month’s salary for someone working full-time at minimum wage. Without H.B. 12 many women would be unable to afford the family planning care they need. This legislation is an investment in Utah women and their families, and I couldn’t be prouder of my home state.
Coverage of birth control and related services is critical to ensuring equality, opportunity, and economic security for Utah women and their families. Being able to make the decision about whether and when to have children is linked to greater educational and professional opportunities, increased lifetime earnings, and even higher family incomes and college completion rates for a woman’s children. In other words, access to birth control is really important.
So today I’m counting the reasons why I love Utah and providing women and their families with access to high-quality family planning services, which includes LARC, is high on the list!
H.B. 12 is not quite yet a done deal –it’s headed to Governor Gary Herbert to sign it into law. The governor had already included this provision in his budget which signaled that he supports this bill and can be expected to sign it. Utah is well on its way to helping ensure Utah women are healthy and able to plan and control their lives. And hopefully one day soon, Utah will close the coverage gap entirely by expanding Medicaid to provide coverage that helps meet women’s other health needs and advances their economic security.