chart of birth control methods used by women

Chart of the Day: Why aren’t condoms and vasectomies covered under Obamacare?

chart of birth control methods used by womenWhen Obamacare required that all forms of birth control be fully covered with no out-of-pocket costs by insurance, it was a huge boon to Americans’ reproductive health. Except that it doesn’t actually cover all methods. 

Since the contraception mandate falls under the category of preventive care “with respect to women,” it has been interpreted to exclude vasectomies and condoms. Which, of course, makes no sense. All birth control helps both partners avoid accidentally creating a fetus — a benefit that, regardless of whether they act on the penis or uterus, is especially great for the partner that can become pregnant.

And the exclusion affects a lot of people, according to a new analysis by the Guttmacher Institute. Among women using contraception, 15 percent rely on male condoms as their primary method and 8 percent rely on their partner’s vasectomy. Overall, a third of female contraception users — about nine million people — are using contraceptive methods that aren’t currently covered.

“The exclusion of methods used by men simply makes no sense and benefits no one—not men, not women, not families, not health plans,” Adam Sonfield, author of the analysis, explains. “Instead, it interferes with contraceptive choice and effective use. It creates a financial incentive for couples to choose female tubal ligation over less invasive and less expensive male vasectomy. And it perpetuates the all-too-common view that contraception is solely the woman’s responsibility.”

At this point, the Guttmacher report concludes, the easiest way to fix this gap would probably be for state lawmakers to take action or, better yet, for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to issue new recommendations affirming contraception — all of it — as vital preventive care.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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