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I Can’t Afford to Let My Boss Interfere With My Health Care Decisions

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March 7, 2014

By Alice S.

The Affordable Care Act makes effective birth control more affordable for millions of women by requiring employer-based health plans to include no-cost coverage for contraceptives. On March 25, the Supreme Court will hear arguments from companies that want to violate this law. Here is a story from one of the many women whose boss has tried to deny her birth control. For fear of losing her job, she requested to remain anonymous. Alice is not her real name.

In my household, like many these days, money is tight.

My husband and I and our two young children are struggling to make ends meet. We’re barely managing to pay our car insurance, the rent on our one-bedroom home, and our child-care provider—never mind my student loans. After all of these expenses, finding money to pay for birth control is a real challenge. But we wouldn’t be in this position at all if the Archdiocese weren’t allowed to interfere with my health care decisions by withholding contraception coverage in my health insurance.

Let me explain. As a teacher at a Catholic primary school, I receive my insurance through the regional Archdiocese, which has refused to allow insurance coverage for birth control or sterilization.

Having to pay out-of-pocket for birth control means that I have to make important health care decisions based on cost rather than on what’s best for me and my family. After my daughter was born two years ago, my husband and I were not ready for another child. My doctor recommended that I take a particular kind of birth control pill that would be safest for me while I breastfed her–but there was no generic version available, and the brand name one cost several hundred dollars per month. I couldn’t afford that, so I went without birth control while breast-feeding and became pregnant again just seven months after my first child was born. I love my son and am so grateful to have him in my life. But the fact is this: My husband and I would not have gotten pregnant at that time, if I had been able to afford the pill that my doctor recommended.

Now that we have two children, I absolutely cannot get pregnant again. We just can’t afford to care for a third child. I desperately want to get my tubes tied or have an intrauterine device inserted, but those options can cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. For now, I’ve asked my doctor to prescribe the cheapest birth control pills that work for my body—and it’s still hard to find an extra $25 each month to pay for them.

I was therefore relieved to learn that the contraception rule will require employers to cover birth control without any co-pay. But then I received a letter, signed by the Archdiocese, telling us that the school would “continue to provide coverage consistent with the church’s teachings.” I’m trying to get to the bottom of whether my employer is following the new law, but it has been hard to get answers.

Until I do, my family and I are back to square one. We hope that the Supreme Court does not give employers a green-light to violate the law and put other people in the same difficult position that we’re in.

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