Washington, D.C. — A new issue brief released today by the Center for American Progress calls for improvements to the current health care system so that all women can access and receive the contraceptive services they need, emphasizing the importance of making family planning services available through a variety of service locations and payment methods.
Access to family planning services is important not just for the 99 percent of sexually active women in the United States who use contraception at some point in their lifetimes but also for women’s educational advancement and economic security. With a reduced risk of unintended pregnancy, women can more easily pursue professional occupations and increase their earning power, alleviating some of the gender wage gap.
“Whether through reducing the cost of unintended pregnancies or enabling women to advance their education and careers, family planning provides a woman with greater independence to make crucial life decisions on her own terms,” said Donna Barry, Director of the Women’s Health and Rights Program at the Center for American Progress. “However, there are a number of barriers preventing many women from accessing family planning services. A diverse system of providers and locations is crucial to enabling all women to receive the quality services they need.”
Not all women have the same level of access to family planning services, and women of color, low-income earners, and women who live in rural areas are more likely to lack access to care. Even after implementation of the Affordable Care Act—which has contributed to an increase in the share of women with no out-of-pocket costs for all contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration—many women do not have private insurance and must pay for services out of pocket and/or use publicly funded services.
In order to reduce disparities in access to family planning, enable more women to access services, and provide an effective and efficient method of payment for these services, CAP recommends the following:
- Increase Title X funding. Title X is especially important to women facing barriers to accessing care, and even though women’s dependence on publicly funded clinics has increased over the past four years, Title X has seen a decrease in funding over this same period of time. Increased funding is necessary to meet all women’s family planning needs.
- Expand Medicaid in all states. As of September 2014, 23 states have chosen not to expand Medicaid, leaving nearly 3 million women—who often need care the most—in a coverage gap. Expanding Medicaid in all states will increase women’s access to health care coverage, help reduce disparities in outcomes, and allow more women to lead healthier lives.
- Promote long-acting reversible contraceptive, or LARC, use, especially postpartum and postabortion. Not only are LARCs more effective than other forms of reversible contraception, they are also more cost efficient. However, only 8.5 percent of U.S. women use these forms of contraceptives due to the stigma against and mistrust of intrauterine devices and the high cost of this method, which can be $500 up to $900 for women without insurance.
- Stop state-based prohibitions to Planned Parenthood. In recent years, a number of states have attempted to defund Planned Parenthood through state-level legislation that would remove the organization’s funding. One-third of Planned Parenthood’s budget comes from federal, state, and local government funding, and without this support the many women who rely on the organization will face obstacles in accessing needed care.
- Improve sex education in schools. Because abstinence-only sex education has proven to be ineffective and withholds important sexual health information, schools should implement a more comprehensive curriculum that is age appropriate and medically accurate.
- Protect confidential medical information. Title X and Medicaid already include confidentiality protections for family planning services, but private insurance companies should expand privacy protections for web-based and paper communication as well.
- Provide cultural competency training for providers. Providers must have the ability to acknowledge cultural differences, understand one’s own culture, and view behavior within a cultural context in order to provide more positive health outcomes for patients.
Read the issue brief: Ensuring Access to Family Planning Services for All by Donna Barry and Amelia Esenstad
For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Chelsea Kiene at email@example.com or 202.478.5328.