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Insurance and Reproductive Health

I guess I really don’t understand it.  I’ve tried to talk to people about health insurance coverage.  I want to understand why women’s reproductive health is often omitted from insurance plans.

For a while I was satisfied with the explanation that an employer chooses what health plan to offer employees.  Any time I heard someone complain that their insurance company wouldn’t cover birth control, I was quick to point out that it was their miserly employer who was to blame.  “Don’t blame your insurance company!  They are just giving you the benefits that your boss thinks you deserve.”  Insurance companies offer different levels of coverage at different costs.  Sure, that makes sense.

But wait…  Health insurance companies will custom design insurance plans that omit coverage for specific body parts or specialized areas?  An employer can purchase a health insurance plan and choose not to include coverage for one of the most important aspects of female well-being?  That seems kind of haphazard.  (And totally absurd.)

But hey, insurance companies aren’t as insensitive as your employer.  If your company thinks you deserve a health insurance plan that is lacking an imperative component, you can go ahead and purchase a rider.  You can pay hundreds of dollars extra to make sure that you have benefits that may at some point become necessary.

If you are a moderately healthy woman, pregnancy is something that can happen to you at any time.  You better check your cut-rate insurance plan, prenatal services might not be covered.  I’ve heard that some plans cover abortion services, but I don’t know anyone who has that kind of coverage.

Reproductive health is inseparable from a woman’s  overall health.  So I just don’t understand–Why is it okay for employers and insurance companies to decide that the reproductive health care of a woman is not necessary in a basic, no frills health insurance plan?  If a person needs to buy a rider for their health plan to provide benefits to the COMPLETE person, what is the point of insurance? Omitting reproductive health benefits from any insurance plan is absurd.

I did try to clear up my insurance confusion by considering moral or religious reasons to exclude certain health services.  (Dominos comes to mind.   http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130315/POLITICS02/303150376)  Maybe it makes sense that an employer who has strong opinions about contraceptives or abortion wouldn’t offer his or her employees an insurance plan that covers those services.  Maybe….  No, that can’t be okay.  An employer can’t use discriminatory hiring practices.  If an employer has a religious belief, that belief cannot control the hiring practices.  Not hiring someone because of religious differences is discrimination.  Religion can’t be used in a discriminatory way in the hiring process.  Why is it okay to impose religious beliefs on employees after they are hired?

I’ve been told that I need to educate myself about health insurance policy.  I guess if I understood insurance, health plans that conspicuously omit reproductive health benefits would suddenly make sense to me…


  1. ninazm21 says:

    It is quite interesting to observe the outrage and uproar, or lack there of, regarding this matter. Before the election, whenever restrictions on health coverage for reproductive rights were mentioned the discussion somehow always became the government doesn’t have the authority to force employers to pay for abortion. A strategic move seeing that most of the country would probably be outraged to find that women where being denied basic reproductive health care coverage outside of abortion and birth control, which are two more arguments for another post. The discussion has virtually vanished in the media since Obama was elected. And I wouldn’t expect congress to pass legislation anytime soon (in support of this issue that is).

  2. sgadille says:

    Yes this is a tricky issue. It is good that you were able to clarify that it isn’t the insurance company’s fault necessarily, but that the employers are really the ones to blame for this act of discrimination. Unfortunately some companies really do discriminate against their employees which goes beyond saving the company some money but is also permanently altering someone’s life. The only way that the government could resolve this issue is if they created a health insurance plan that employers were required to offer all of their employees. Then there would be no loop holes and companies would not lose any revenue on whom they hired.

  3. shaniperk says:

    Love your post. I work for the insurance company so I have firsthand knowledge of what you are speaking about. I know plenty of companies that offer pregnancy termination coverage to their employees. I personally have a health insurance policy that covers terminations in full without any authorization as long as you are within the legal limits for an abortion and makes you jump through hoops to get 50% coverage on Family planning services such as infertility treatments. My company actually has no coverage for artificial insemination.

    I remember being at a health fair at Ford Motor company when I was about 21. I was representing my company during Ford’s open enrollment season. A man approached me and inquired about the benefits sheet we had given him to go over. He asked me to clarify the benefits which I did.

    He stepped back took a weird look at me and said “so (insert co. name) covers abortions, but doesn’t cover fertility services” I gave him a reassuring yes and he walked away. It wasn’t until about 10 years later when my husband & I struggled to conceive that I got what he meant.

    • lkkeilma says:

      Thanks for your comment. It is really baffling to me how companies pick and choose which services to include in their insurance plans. I guess your company is making decisions based solely on economics… Personally I think an economically based decision is more respectable than a company imposing a particular religious viewpoint on a diverse set of employees.

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