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A new study from the Guttmacher Institute, published this week in the journal Contraception, shows a big jump in the percentage of women with private health insurance paying no money out of pocket for prescription contraceptives since the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage requirement took effect in January 2013.

The study examined survey data from 892 women, all of whom were enrolled in private insurance and used a prescription contraceptive method between the fall of 2012 and the spring of 2014. Researchers saw the following changes in the percentage of these women who paid $0 for their prescription contraception:

  1. A four-fold increase among women taking the pill.
  2. More than double for injectable contraception users.
  3. A three-fold increase for vaginally ring users.
  4. A 50% increase among IUD users, both copper and hormonal.

Additionally, for women in the sample who did pay for oral contraceptives, average costs declined.

Curious about women who use the patch and implant? The number of users was too small to run tests on; however, this can hopefully be assessed in future research.

Despite these changes there are still gaps in coverage. These include:

  1. Women who work at organizations that have a religious exemption from the coverage mandate.
  2. Those taking brand-name contraceptives for which a generic also exists.
  3. Women who receive prescriptions from out-of-network healthcare providers.

The result seen in this report may contribute to the significant decline in teen birth rates that we’ve seen over the last few years. Although this study includes women aged 18-39, while teen birth rates cover females aged 15-19, the majority of teen births occur in females 18-19 years old. Therefore this study’s results are could be provide a clue about what is driving down teen births. Increased access to prescription contraceptives due to lower costs may not explain everything, but the ACA mandate arguably has had a positive impact by making it easier for women receiving subsidized private insurance, who may previously have opted out of a plan, to put their health needs and desires first.

One question the study did not explore is whether more women are opting to use prescription contraceptives now that the coverage guarantee is in place. In other words, what part of this increase, if any, could be attributed to an increase in the overall use of contraception after the mandate went into effect? The answer would provide more nuance to the conversation and allow public health professionals to better understand women’s choices regarding contraception.

Other Sexual Health News This Week

Columbia Student’s Performance Art Catalyzes a Full-Fledged Protest Movement (ArtNet)

CatalystCon Returns to West Coast for Sex-Positive Weekend (AVN)

Many Pediatricians are Skipping the Sex Talk with Teens (Wall Street Journal)

Wisconsin Schools Bans Bullying Based on Gender Identity (HRC)

Military Affairs Beat: U of Michigan Study Questions Miltary’s Sexual Assault Prevention Program (Star-Tribune)

West Virginia Judge Delays Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage Ban (Jurist)

Important Dates

The following conference proposals are due in September. Click on each title for more information and to submit.

American College Health Association 2015 Annual Meeting, September 22

Wyoming Sexual Assault Summit XIV: Start by Believing, September 19

NASPA Violence Prevention Conference, September 26

The following conferences take place in September. Click on each title for more information and to register.

Widener University’s Sexuality, Intimacy, & Aging Conference, September 19-20, Chester, PA Check out Kait’s session, “Sexual Health and Pleasure in Cancer Survivorship.”