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7 out of 10 Americans support mandatory health coverage of contraceptives

7 out of 10 Americans support mandatory health coverage of contraceptives
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When asked if they believed that “all health plans in the United States should be required to include coverage” for “birth control medications,” 69 percent of the respondents agreed.

Almost 70 percent of Americans support the Affordable Care Act’s mandated coverage of birth control, according to the findings of a nationwide survey published earlier this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The findings are similar to those of earlier surveys and come a few weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on whether an employer can be exempt from providing their workers with health coverage for contraceptives if the employer objects to them on religious grounds.

The survey, which involved 2,124 adults from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., was conducted in November 2013 by a team of University of Michigan researchers. When asked if they believed that “all health plans in the United States should be required to include coverage” for “birth control medications,” 1,452 of the respondents (69 percent) agreed, while 436 (19 percent) disagreed. Another 197 (10 percent) were uncertain, and 39 (2 percent) refused to answer.

Support for the mandate was significantly higher among women, blacks, Hispanics and people with children under the age of 18 living in their households than among the general population. It was also higher among people who had health insurance, either private or public.

Neither education nor income affected support, however. The survey did not ask the respondents about their religious beliefs or political views.

Other services

Although the support in the survey for universal birth control coverage was strong, it was lower than that for the mandated coverage of other health-related services. Here are those findings:

  • 85 percent of the respondents supported mandatory coverage of mammograms and colonoscopies
  • 84 percent were in favor of mandatory coverage of recommended vaccinations
  • 82 percent agreed with mandatory coverage of preventive screenings for diabetes and high blood pressure
  • 77 percent backed mandatory coverage of mental health services
  • 75 percent supported coverage of dental care, including routine check-ups

A small percentage of the respondents — 7.8 percent — supported mandatory coverage of all of the services except birth control. Among this group, were “a higher proportion of persons unlikely to use such coverage,” write the researchers who conducted the survey. 

Indeed, 56 percent of the respondents in this group were men, 27 percent were over the age of 60, and 39 percent had no children under the age of 18 living in their homes.

Highly controversial

The mandatory coverage of birth control has been one the most controversial requirements of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Some conservative politicians and pundits have charged that it has “turned sex into a government entitlement.” Others  have claimed that no-cost contraception will encourage women to have sex with multiple partners and increase the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancies and abortions.

A study published earlier this year by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found, however, that free contraception did not result in riskier sexual behavior. Nor did it increase the rate of sexually transmitted infections. And other studies have found that making contraception available at no cost to women actually reduces unintended pregnancies and abortions.

As women’s health advocates and other supporters of the mandatory coverage of birth control have long pointed out, access to affordable birth control is more about women’s health and economic opportunities than about sex.

“Since birth control became legal and widely available, women’s health has improved dramatically; the infant death rate has plummeted; and women have been able to invest in their education and careers,” wrote Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, in a recent MinnPost commentary.

It would seem from this survey that most Americans agree.

The survey was funded by the University of Michigan Health System and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. You can download and read the full report on the survey at JAMA’s website.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/24/2014 - 01:37 pm.

    A no-brainer

    I’ve yet to see this point raised in either the ‘Strib or discussions here on MinnPost, but if the SCOTUS rules that employers cannot be required to provide contraception coverage as part of the health care package for their employees, it’s not exactly contrary, but nonetheless relevant to point out that doing so would allow those employers to impose THEIR religious beliefs upon their employees. If the primary argument against such coverage is going to be that it violates the religious beliefs of those employers – an argument that seems totally irrelevant to me, since there’s nothing in the ACA requiring those employers to USE birth control, of any method, themselves – then that same “violates my religious beliefs” ought to be just as valid for an employee to use in arguing that her (or his) employer be required to provide such coverage.

    There’s plenty of research, from Washington University and elsewhere, to show that the hysterical claims of the right wing have no basis in fact, whether the expressed concern is sexual profligacy, increased disease, or females adopting the sexual mores of males (an interesting, though false, argument, that reveals a blatant double standard). The ACA doesn’t require employees to actually USE birth control, it merely requires employers to make it available as part of their health care coverage. The choice of whether or not to use it is up to the employee.

    Isn’t it interesting that the same people who hate mandates and being told what to do by the government, and who insist that, in this context, their religious rights are being trampled upon, have no problem at all with private employers issuing mandates and requiring compliance with them by their employees, and in process trampling upon the religious rights of those same employees?

    • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 04/24/2014 - 03:33 pm.

      Ray always cuts to what Graham Greene

      would describe as the “Heart of the Matter.”

      Why are “barrier methods” immoral?

      If sperm cells live in a man and eggs in the ovaries of a woman, why is the prevention of their union via intercourse immoral?

      John Rock, a practicing Catholic, died of a broken heart because the Church “pulled out” on his invention of hormonal contraception: http://ow.ly/w8r04

      In the long run, beauty, truth, and justice will win.

  2. Submitted by Steve Hoffman on 04/24/2014 - 01:58 pm.

    I for one!

    I’m 65 years old, and certainly don’t need any sort of birth control these days. But I absolutely support including it in health plans, and I don’t mind in the least paying my share of it. We already have too many “accidental” children being mistreated and abandoned. All babies should be wanted!

  3. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 04/25/2014 - 11:46 am.

    Birth control is like gay marriage: if you don’t like it and don’t approve of it, then don’t get gay married. It’s perfectly fine for people to decide if they want to use birth control. It’s not OK though for them to decide that for other people.

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