Magazine article Sierra

It's a Man's World

Magazine article Sierra

It's a Man's World

Article excerpt

Is male potency important than preventing pregnancy?

"If men could get pregnant," said pioneering feminist Flo Kennedy, "abortion would be a sacrament." The same sentiment is revealed in the way the nation's health insurers are treating the advent of Viagra, Pfizer's new wonder drug. As soon as it hit the market, many insurers rushed to include it in their programs as a cure for the medical problem of male impotence. By May 1, almost half of all Viagra prescriptions were covered by insurers.

Women seeking to avoid becoming pregnant by their Viagra-popping partners may not be so fortunate. Almost 40 years after the introduction of the Pill, only 15 percent of traditional indemnity insurance plans cover all five of the most common reversible contraceptives--the Pill, diaphragm, IUD, Norplant, and Depo-Provera. (On the other hand, nine out often insurance plans pay for sterilization.) Health maintenance organizations are somewhat better: 84 percent cover the Pill, but less than 40 percent cover all five contraceptive methods. The majority of U.S. workers with health insurance, however, are covered by the more restrictive conventional plans.

"It doesn't seem fair to us," says Dr. Luella Klein, director of Women's Health Issues for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. "Impotence is a medical condition, but so is unintended pregnancy."

A simple cost/benefit analysis would seem to argue strongly for comprehensive contraception coverage. Women who do not use contraception, notes Klein, can expect 15 to 24 pregnancies during their fertile years. Two out of three insurers pay for abortion, and virtually all pay for prenatal care and childbirth. Those costs would be offset, the Congressional Budget Office has found, if insurers provided contraceptive services.

The health-care industry, however, has already figured out the angle on this one. …

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