Washington’s insurance carriers must improve their customer service and give patients the right information on birth control coverage.
BIRTH control access is not just a female issue. Though some women have medical reasons for needing hormonal treatment, contraceptives are the most effective way for women and men to plan their families and space out their children.
Too bad many Washington patients are possibly being misinformed by their insurance providers about their right to no-cost coverage on a full range of birth-control prescriptions. That was the finding from a survey released this month by Northwest Health Law Advocates and NARAL Pro-Choice Washington.
Between last July and November, 11 volunteer “secret shoppers” called the eight insurance companies offering plans through the state’s health exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder. About 85,000 females are enrolled in those plans — 40 percent of them within their childbearing years of 18 and 44.
The would-be customers experienced numerous problems. Representatives from the same carrier frequently offered inaccurate information. Some were unaware of the federal law and could not answer specific questions on brands or how much copays might cost.
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The Affordable Care Act requires insurance carriers to provide their patients with contraceptive education. They must cover a wide range of FDA-approved methods at no extra charge, including: diaphragms, birth-control pills, intrauterine devices (IUDs), sterilization procedures and emergency contraception.
The Seattle Times reported Friday that Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler met in March with insurance companies to review the survey’s findings. In that same news story, a Premera Blue Cross representative noted the survey was based on call inquiries, not the final benefits the callers received. Hardly an excuse.
Callers who are given wrong information about coverage might make an economic decision that is not in their best interest.
The carriers agreed to revamp their customer-service training and will meet with Kreidler again in October. Six months? That’s too long to wait on an issue as sensitive as birth control. Any barriers to access — including cost and bad information — can lead to inconsistent use and unintended pregnancies.
We expect consumers to take responsibility for their own health decisions. They deserve to get correct information from the start.