President-elect Donald Trump announced his pick to head the Health and Human Services Department on Tuesday: House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, a Republican from Georgia and a fierce opponent of abortion, the Affordable Care Act, and the law’s birth-control mandate.
Perhaps Price opposes the provision, which covers birth control without a copay, because he believes it to be unnecessary. In 2012, he made comments suggesting all women can afford birth control:
At the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference, Think Progress reporter Scott Keyes asked Price, “One of the main sticking points is whether or not contraceptive coverage is going to be covered under health insurance plans and at hospitals and whether they’re going to be able to pay for it, especially low-income women … where do we leave these women if this rule is rescinded?”
“Bring me one woman who has been left behind. Bring me one. There’s not one,” Price replied. “The fact of the matter is this is a trampling on religious freedom and religious liberty in this country.”
Price’s stated reason, that the mandate infringes on religious liberties, is a common one among conservatives. It's worth noting, however, that Obamacare doesn’t require anyone to buy or use birth control.
Actually, before contraceptives were added as a mandatory benefit under Obamacare, millions of women had trouble affording it. A survey commissioned by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund in 2010, before the mandate went into effect, found that a third of women struggled with the cost of prescription birth control— their co-pays ranged from $15 to $50 a month. Earlier surveys found poor women were more likely to use less-costly, and less-effective, methods of birth control, such as withdrawal or the rhythm method, rather than IUDs and the pill. The rapid decline in the teen pregnancy rate in recent years is largely thought to be due to the proliferation of free long-term reversible contraceptives, which can cost hundreds of dollars if not covered by insurance.
What’s more, even now that birth control is supposedly covered without cost, not all women are eligible for the discount, including millions of women who are uninsured or in the Medicaid coverage gap.
After the release of the clip in 2012, news sites quickly rounded up scores of women who said they had trouble affording birth control.
“Right after college when I got kicked off my parents' insurance, I couldn't afford it and had to stop taking it,” a 26-year-old named Lucille told Good magazine at the time. “As a result, I had a few unnecessary ‘scares’ that wouldn't have been ‘scares’ at all if I had the pill."
If Price helps Trump to achieve his goal of repealing and replacing Obamacare—without the contraceptive mandate—there may be many women like Lucille who have to stop taking their newly-expensive birth control.