Up Front and Personal

The Myths About the Contraceptive Mandate

by Nancy Frazier O’Brien

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Exaggerations and outright misrepresentations about the Department of Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate have been appearing in White House “fact sheets” and mainstream media. Here are some of the more frequently cited claims and the facts to counter them:

Myth: Self-insurance is a seldom-used method of providing health insurance to employers, used mainly by church organizations to avoid having to pay for abortions or birth control.
Fact: A majority of Americans who have private health insurance are in self-insured plans, according to separate reports by the Congressional Research Service and the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust. The percentage was 44% in 1999, 55% in 2008 and had increased to 60% by 2011.

Myth: Twenty-eight states already require employers to cover contraceptives for their employees, so the situation in those states will not change.
Fact: Self-insured plans are excluded from state contraceptive mandates, but not from federal requirements.  In addition, all but three states – California, New York and Oregon – include a broader religious exemption than the HHS one, which sets four criteria for an exemption: that an employer’s purpose is to inculcate religious values, that it primarily hires and serves people who share its religious tenets, and that it is a nonprofit organization under certain sections of the tax code.

Myth: Adding contraceptive coverage to health plans will be net cost-neutral, because those covered by the mandate will have fewer unintended pregnancies.
Fact: Pharmacy directors disagree. An online survey by New Jersey-based Reimbursement Intelligence of 15 pharmacy directors representing more than 100 million employees or their dependents found that nearly 50% thought the mandate would increase costs, 20% thought it would be cost-neutral and none predicted that it would save money. More than 30% said they didn’t know what the effect would be.

Myth: Ninety-eight percent of Catholic women have used contraceptives.
Fact: The figure comes from an April 2011 Guttmacher Institute report based on the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth. Twenty-five percent of the respondents to the survey self-identified as Catholics, but 40% of those said they never attended Mass or attended less frequently than once a month.
Nancy Frazier O’Brien is a member of the staff of Catholic News Service in Washington, D.C.