Insurers must cover birth control

WASHINGTON (AP) - Preventing pregnancy carries a big price tag, but in one year it will be covered completely through insurance.

"Nowadays I don't think people are really comfortable thinking anything is truly free, so I think we'll see increases in other places. But it's nice at the register to not have that immediate cost," said Cynthia May, who supports the plan.

New guidelines were announced Monday by the Health and Human Services secretary to help women prevent health problems before they start. It's all part of President Obama's plan signed into law last year.

Private insurance companies will be required to provide women with a whole range of preventive services without charging, including yearly check-ups.

"Sometimes a $20 co-pay can be prohibitive for a decent percentage of the population, and that's really sad to think about but it's the truth," said Dr. Beth Aronson, Obstetrics/Gynecology, GBMC.

Dr. Aronson says the birth control pill can cost up to $50 a month. She is generous with samples when she knows a patient is in tight financial times.

"But you can't give somebody a year's worth of birth control pills," said Dr. Aronson.

But the handout is criticized by conservative groups, especially since it includes the highly controversial morning after pill.

"For the majority of the pro-life Americans who are not in favor of that, this shouldn't be something that is mandated through insurances," said Jeanne Monahan, Director, Center for Human Dignity.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement: "HHS says the intent of its 'preventive services' mandate is to help stop health problems before they start... But pregnancy is not a disease, and children are not a 'health problem' - they are the next generation of Americans."

The White House says it doesn't believe new regulations will increase insurance premiums for all Americans but a spokesperson for the insurance industry expects the costs to be passed on.