Magazine article Drug Topics

Is There a Gender Bias in Coverage of Contraceptives?

Magazine article Drug Topics

Is There a Gender Bias in Coverage of Contraceptives?

Article excerpt

According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a not-for-prof it research organization, a woman who has sexual intercourse for one year without the use of any contraceptive method has an 85% chance of becoming pregnant. However, a recent study confirmed that only 39% of managed care plans and 15% of indemnity plans offer at least some coverage for all five prescription methods of reversible birth control: oral contraception, diaphragms, IUDs, injectables (medroxyprogesterone, Depo-Provera, Pharmacia), and implants (levonorgestrel, Norplant, Wyeth-Ayerst). The study, "Women's Health Care Issues: Contraception as a Covered Benefit," was funded by Pharmacia Corp. and conducted by William M. Mercer Inc., a consulting firm specializing in employee benefits,

With the additional burden of birth control expenses, it is no surprise that the Women's Research & Education Institute, a nonprofit organization supplying information and analyses on women's issues, has found that women pay 68% more in out-of-pocket healthcare expenses than men do. The average annual cost of prescription birth control, according to the Mercer report, ranges from $73 for an IUD to $333 for oral contraceptives. This is "a lot of money to a lot of people," said Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., OB/GYN professor at Yale University.

Many managed care organizations continue to assert that only drugs used in the care ox treatment of an illness will be included in Rx drug coverage and that "lifestyle"drugs such as contraceptives should be paid for by the consumer. However, the 1998 introduction of Viagra (sildenafil citrate, Pfizer), which has also been termed a "lifestyle" drug, ignited a fury among consumers concerning an apparent double standard in drug coverage. During Viagra's first two months of sales, according to a 1998 Washington Post article by Amy Goldstein, more than half of all prescriptions received some coverage for the medication.

The American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists claims that this unequal treatment by health insurance is "gender bias"; approved contraceptive devices have been on the market for 40 years, yet they still have not received justice in the insurance world. Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation, remarked that "Viagra, in all seriousness, means more sex-and more sex means more need for effective contraception. …

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