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ACA Improves Contraceptive Access for Teens, But Coverage Gaps Remain

ACA Improves Contraceptive Access for Teens, But Coverage Gaps Remain

April 30, 2014 — The Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) has increased teens' access to a broader range of contraceptives that will bolster efforts to reduce teen pregnancies, according to advocates at a forum hosted by the D.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, CQ HealthBeat reports.

According to speakers at the event, insurers initially interpreted the law's contraceptive coverage requirements too narrowly, leaving some methods uncovered. However, advocates pressured HHS to work with insurers to cover more contraceptive products, helping to expand coverage to a wider range of methods, such as intrauterine devices.

However, the ACA will not reach its full potential until all contraceptives, including rings and patches, are covered and more is done to encourage teens to discuss such options with their physicians, according to Athena Cross, director of health reform implementation at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Cross noted the importance of long-acting reversible contraceptives, like IUDs, which are becoming more widely used.

She said, "It's still very much left up to the health plans to determine what will be covered," adding that some plans do not have to cover such methods because they have "grandfather[ed]" status under the law and do not have to meet certain ACA standards.

Further, Brenda Gleason, a professor of health policy and health communication at the George Washington University School of Public Health, said that physicians need to be better educated about the breadth of contraceptives that are available. Many are not up to date on LARC options, she said (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 4/29).