Know the Facts: IUDs and the Current Healthcare Law

Holding an IUD birth control copper coil device in hand, used for contraception
If you have been reading the news or been on social media recently, then you have likely seen people panicking about the new President and Congress limiting your access to birth control. Articles are encouraging women to get an IUD or LARC (long-acting reversible contraceptive) immediately before President Obama’s term is over. Let’s face it: there is reason to worry about what access to reproductive health care will look like under the new administration. But we want to encourage you to step back and take a breath. And for those of you thinking about getting on a long-term form of birth control, I want to take a moment to state some facts about the current health care law and the coverage you are entitled to right now.

How does the current health care law guarantee coverage for birth control?
The Affordable Care Act requires insurance plans to fully cover preventive health services without charging anything extra to the consumer. Birth control is considered to be preventive care, and therefore it has to be covered without copays or deductibles. In other words, when you go to pick up your birth control pills, you shouldn’t have to pay anything at the pharmacy. Or when you go to get your IUD, you shouldn’t have to pay anything out of pocket.

Can insurance companies cover some methods but not others?
The law requires coverage of at least one form of birth control in each of the categories recognized by the FDA. Gone are the days when insurance companies could decide not to cover an entire method, like the ring or IUD. This gives you the flexibility to choose the method that is best for you and your medical needs without having to worry about cost. If you are not sure what all your options are, this FDA birth control guide can give you more information.

I’ve been hearing a lot about IUDs. What are IUDs and why are people focused on getting one?
IUDs are a very effective form of birth control, over 99% effective. And they are long-acting; they can last anywhere from 3-10 years, depending on the type you choose.  There are two categories of IUDs: Copper IUD and IUD with progestin.  The IUD with progestin works by releasing hormones; the copper IUD is non-hormonal. Both of these devices must be inserted by a healthcare provider and can be removed at any point. IUDs have high up-front costs (up to $1000), so getting it covered by insurance without having to pay out of pocket is a big deal.
While there is a lot of love for IUDs these days, they are not for everyone. It is important to talk with your doctor and be sure that an IUD is the right method for you.

An IUD would be the best option for me. Will it be covered by my insurance?
Remember when I said the health care law requires at least one form of birth control in each category to be covered? For the copper IUD category, there is only one type available, so Paragard has to be covered.  But when it comes to IUDs with progestin, there are three on the market: Mirena, Skyla, and Liletta. An insurance plan is only required to cover one of those IUDs. For example, an insurance plan can choose to cover only the Liletta IUD, and impose cost-sharing on Mirena and Skyla. But what if you and your provider determine that Liletta is not the right one for you? Don’t worry – there’s a fix for that!  According to the law, each plan must have a process in place so that you can the birth control you need. In other words, you should be able to get Mirena or Skyla, if that is the right IUD for you, without cost-sharing.

My insurance company is covering my IUD, but not the insertion/ultrasound/counseling. Is that allowed?
The health care law requires your health coverage to include any provider visit and clinical service associated with the IUD or any other type of birth control. This includes ultrasound, insertion, counseling and any other services your provider deems necessary. If you have questions or problems getting covered, you can reach out to us for assistance.
Bottom line: If you don’t want to get pregnant, it is important to find the birth control method that is right for you. The health care law means you should be able to get that method without paying out of pocket. If you decide that an IUD is best for you, then great! But you don’t need to get one because of changes in the political climate. At the National Women’s Law Center, we will always fight to make sure that all types of birth control are available to those who need them, no matter who is in office.