The findings are consistent with previous studies showing that removing out-of-pocket costs for contraception is associated with increased consistent use of the most effective methods to prevent unplanned pregnancies, Dalton says.
“Contraception is a clinically efficient and cost effective strategy for reducing unintended pregnancy and helping individuals meet their reproductive life goals,” says Dalton, who is also the director of the U-M Program on Women’s Healthcare Effectiveness Research (PWHER.)
“Policies that eliminate cost sharing for contraception will help us achieve our clinical goals of ensuring that all families can decide whether and when to have children. This policy particularly benefits people with low incomes who may be more deterred by birth control prices and may have also had less comprehensive insurance coverage before the ACA.”
Unplanned pregnancies are associated with delayed prenatal care, reduced likelihood of breastfeeding, maternal depression, and higher maternal and infant mortality rates, Dalton notes.
“Mistimed births have serious, long term, life opportunity consequences for women and children,” Dalton says.
They have a societal cost too, including an estimated $5 billion per year in direct and indirect costs for the U.S. health care system. In 2011, 42% of unintended pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) ended in abortion and two thirds of unplanned births were funded by public insurance programs such as Medicaid.
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Authors note that recent court decision, including the 2020 Supreme Court decision upholding rules that expand exceptions from the contraceptive requirement could roll back improvement in access for some women.
“Removing cost related barriers for birth control may not eliminate unintended pregnancies, but it’s a critical part of the strategy to address this important public health concern in the U.S.,” Dalton says.
Read More: Expanded Birth Control Coverage May Help Reduce Disparities in Unplanned