Health Plans Should Cover Birth Control, Majority Says

(Image credit: <a href=""> Tomas Daliman</a>, <a href="">Shutterstock</a>)

Nearly seven in 10 Americans support rules requiring health plans to cover birth control medications, according to a new survey.

The support appears higher among people who most need access to affordable birth control medication: women, blacks and Hispanics, researchers found.

Researchers surveyed about 3,500 people from all parts of the country in November. About 2,100 of people responded to the questionnaire. They were asked whether they thought all health plans in the United States should be required to include coverage for services such as birth control medications, mammograms and colonoscopies, vaccinations, tests for diabetes and high cholesterol, mental health care, and dental care.

Results showed that 69 percent of respondents supported mandated coverage for contraceptives. However, other services had higher levels of support: About 85 percent of those surveyed supported coverage of mammograms and colonoscopies, and vaccination. More than 75 percent supported tests for diabetes and high cholesterol, mental health care, and dental care. [7 Surprising Facts About the Pill]

The researchers also found that a small group of respondents (less than 10 percent) supported mandated coverage for all services except contraceptives. This group included a markedly higher proportion of men, adults over the age of 60 and individuals without children, according to the study, published today (April 22) in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

"Our findings suggest that a policy requiring all health insurance plans to cover birth control medications is consistent with the beliefs of the majority of Americans," said study researcher Dr. Michelle Moniz, an OB/GYN at the University of Michigan Medical School.

"Support is higher among individuals who may be more likely to directly benefit from affordable birth control," Moniz said.

The Affordable Care Act's contraceptive coverage mandate is being challenged at the Supreme Court by two corporations, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, that object to the law on religious grounds.

The companies specifically oppose the requirement that they pay for emergency contraception, which can prevent pregnancy after intercourse, and intrauterine devices, or IUDs, for contraception. They say using these forms of birth control is tantamount to abortion, because the device can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

On the other hand, scientists say that IUDs work primarily by preventing sperm from reaching and fertilizing an egg. Although IUDs could in theory prevent a fertilized egg from implantation, they rarely do so in practice, scientists say.

The emergency contraception drug, known as Plan B, mainly prevents pregnancy by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary, and by preventing the fertilization of an egg.

Email Bahar Gholipour. Follow us @LiveScience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Bahar Gholipour
Staff Writer
Bahar Gholipour is a staff reporter for Live Science covering neuroscience, odd medical cases and all things health. She holds a Master of Science degree in neuroscience from the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Paris, and has done graduate-level work in science journalism at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She has worked as a research assistant at the Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives at ENS.