Birth Control Policy Raises Debate
Published: Friday, April 27, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 00:11
Though Kenyon’s current insurance plan does not cover students’ birth control, the new healthcare law may encourage a change.
President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), if passed, will soon require all colleges to include birth control as a covered entity in their health plans. PPACA, however, includes an exemption for self-funded insurance providers like Kenyon.
Because the College’s existing policy does not cover birth control or any other prescription medications, Kenyon’s coverage may seem inadequate. But it is based on the assumption that most Kenyon students arrive at the College already covered by a parent’s policy. The policy covers unlimited visits to the Health Center and all fees, lab work and X-rays.
Self-funded institutions are only required to comply with some of PPACA’s rulings, but the College is in discussions with its insurance provider to decide what, if any, policies to implement, according to Director of Health Services Kim Cullers.
The fact that the Health Center does not cover birth control could be a problem for a small portion of the Kenyon population, according to Cullers. Though many students already have birth control coverage through their parents’ policies, some students are not covered or wish to remain separate from their parents. “How about the female student that doesn’t want her parents to know she’s starting birth control?” Cullers said. “What are her options, because she probably would have full coverage under her parents’ policy, but if they want to get [birth control] without their parents knowing, then they would either have to get it through us or pay cash for it.”
The act also calls Kenyon’s bare-bones policy into question, since most students take advantage of the Health Center more than their home insurance plans. If the PPACA goes into effect, it will mandate more fully covered benefits than ever before — gynecological testing, free STD (sexually transmitted disease) testing, physicals and more. But these services would only be available through a student’s home insurance plan, meaning he or she would have to be at home to take advantage of them.
In addition, adapting Kenyon’s policy to follow the PPACA would increase the existing cost for health services. Currently, students pay a mandatory flat fee of $635 per semester for a basic insurance plan, which covers unlimited visits to the Health Center and some services for women including routine exams, Pap tests and STD screening. International students who do not have an alternate plan in the U.S. also purchase a second plan at an additional $163 per semester that covers more specific health problems, but students who are covered under their parents’ plan can opt out of second option by completing a Medical Plan Waiver Card.
“If I had it my way, I would adapt our policy to the [PPACA] as much as I could, but I have a feeling if I did that it would be very expensive, and right now the policy is really affordable,” Cullers said.
Kenyon may offer fewer services, not more, as a result of the PPACA, according to Cullers. “What I see happening as a result of the PPACA is that most females will utilize the covered option under their parents’ insurance … and we may not need to carry any pills in the future, or a very limited supply,” Cullers said in an email. “To be honest, I’m not sure much will change here as a result of the PPACA.”
To address here in Gambier, the Crozier Center for Women, the Kenyon Democrats, the Kenyon Republicans and Agora held an informal panel and discussion yesterday, “Women’s Health and Politics: In the News and On the Hill,” the possible outcomes of the act’s implementation. The discussion featured Director of Health Services and Nurse Practitioner Kim Cullers and Assistant Professor of Political Science H. Abbie Erler.
Molly Silverstein ’13, a member of the Crozier Center for Women, said Crozier and the other groups organized the event partially in response to the current political climate and partially in an effort to educate Kenyon students, especially women, about their healthcare options. “Obviously U.S. healthcare for women is a huge issue right now, and there’s a kind of war on women going on, and I think these are conversations that Kenyon students don’t have in person a lot of times,” Silverstein said. “We thought it was important to gear it towards how will these policies affect Kenyon students, because a lot of people don’t know the practical side of healthcare.”
Erler and Cullers, the two speakers, provided two separate perspectives on the issue of women’s health in public policy. Erler spoke about the historical and political context of the birth control debate, while Cullers focused on the more practical aspect of the new policy and how it will affect Kenyon students.