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COLUMN

Happytown: Where's our free birth control?

The Affordable Care Act makes birth control free, but if you're already insured, you may have to wait until 2014 to get the benefit

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JUST LIKE A PILL

If, like us, you rushed to the pharmacy last August and demanded free baby postponers as soon as you heard Obamacare had passed, you were probably bummed to find out that for most people, the Affordable Care Act's promise of preventive care without out-of-pocket costs wouldn't kick in until 2013. So of course you postponed all your lady appointments until after Jan. 1, 2013, because the ol' tit in a wringer = a little less awful when you're not paying for it. And then last week, there you were, making a scene at Walgreens because they still wanted money for that fancy NuvaRing that prevents your heinous cramps and acne. What gives? We thought we were in the brave new world of keeping Americans healthy.

Well, not so fast, Suffragette City. Turns out that most employer-provided health plans don't have to comply with the preventive care provisions of the ACA; within certain limitations, any employer plan that existed when ACA passed in 2010 is "grandfathered" and can continue to charge co-pays for those services and drugs. (And BTW, it's not all fun girly stuff like birth control pills and mammograms – ACA calls for free screening for colorectal cancer, cervical cancer, HIV, depression and diabetes; free immunization vaccines; free vision and dental screening for kids, and a host of other services for men, women and children.) If a grandfathered plan makes certain changes, however – significantly increases the cost of co-pays or deductibles, for instance, or decreases the amount the employer contributes – they will lose their grandfathered status and have to fall in line with ACA guidelines. The National Women's Law Center estimates that 90 percent of all large U.S. companies expect their health plans to lose grandfathered status by 2014. Check the fact sheets at nwlc.org and healthcare.gov for real talk and numbers.

So hey, maybe next year. Is anyone else starting to feel like by the time we get the pill for free, we won't need it anymore?

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