The Affordable Care Act guarantees all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, counseling and related services — but these protections do not apply to TRICARE, the military's insurance provider.

The Affordable Care Act guarantees all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, counseling and related services — but these protections do not apply to TRICARE, the military's insurance provider. JOSH LAWTON/DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA/BOULDER DAILY CAMERA VIA GETTY IMAGES

Democrats Ask Pentagon to End Birth Control Costs for Military Families

While active service members receive full contraceptive coverage, more than 700,000 military spouses and dependents of reproductive age still have copays for pills, implants, IUDs and other preventive measures.

Inactive service members, veterans, military spouses and dependents are subject to copays for contraceptive care — care that is fully covered under many employer-sponsored and marketplace health plans outside of the military. Democrats in Congress want to change that. 

More than 140 Democrats in Congress signed a letter Thursday urging the secretary of defense to eliminate additional costs for military families who currently have “fewer rights than those they serve to protect.” 

Rep. Jackie Speier of California, who for years has been working to end cost barriers to contraceptive care, said this is a “simple issue of fairness.”

“Military families that are often living on tight budgets shouldn’t have to use their hard-earned money for contraceptive copays when civilians don’t have to carry that financial burden,” said Speier, co-chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus and chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee.

Full coverage, without copays, remains in place for active service members.

The Department of Defense did not respond to a request for comment.

The TRICARE program, which provides health benefits to U.S. troops, retirees and their families around the world, covered nearly 1.6 million women of reproductive age in 2019 — including more than 700,000 military spouses and dependents of reproductive age. Additionally, thousands of transgender dependents of service members are covered by TRICARE. The legislative text notes that contraception is critical to “all individuals with the capacity for pregnancy, including cisgender women, transgender men, non-binary individuals, those who identify with a different gender and others.” 

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) guarantees all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, counseling and related services — but these protections do not apply to TRICARE. A spokesperson for TRICARE had not issued a response by publication time.

Rep. Lois Frankel, a Florida Democrat who also signed the letter, said in a statement that current insurance law created a disparity that was unfair to military dependents. 

“The Affordable Care Act eliminated co-pays for contraceptive care for individuals with employer-sponsored and marketplace plans, allowing access to birth control to become more affordable and accessible,” Frankel said. “Our men and women in uniform—and their families—sacrifice so much for our country, ensuring they have access to quality health care, including the birth control they need, should not be debatable!”

Lawmakers have repeatedly tried to ensure that these service members and their families are not subject to copays for contraception. Most recently, early versions of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) included a contraceptive access provision, which was later removed following Republican pushback. 

Speier, who said through a spokesperson that she has tried to include this provision in the NDAA for several years only to have it removed in last-minute conferences, criticized the opponents’ “Stone-Age mentality” and emphasized that “birth control is health care and access to it is every person’s right.” 

The provision, however, still has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, and the Department of Defense has also voiced support for “this legislative relief,” according to Thursday’s letter. So with the window closed this year for inclusion in the NDAA, legislators are taking a different approach: urging the Department of Defense to declare contraceptive services as “preventative medical care,” which would allow Secretary Lloyd Austin to waive all copays. 

The letter cited defense officials as saying that  “removing these financial barriers to contraception may mean more freedom of choice with respect to family planning for our beneficiaries,” according to the letter. The Defense Department already supports, through regulations, providing victims of sexual assault in the military with emergency contraception upon request. 

“Access to contraception and the ability to determine if and when to have children are inextricably tied to one’s health and wellbeing, equality, financial security, and control over one’s life,” the legislators wrote. “Studies have shown that the costs related to contraception, even when small, lead some women to forgo it completely, to choose less effective methods, or to use it inconsistently.” 

The NDAA, an annual bill that provides guidance on how military funding should be spent, was passed in December with a 89-10 vote in the Senate. Though the contraceptive care provision for military retirees and dependents was stripped from the final $770 billion legislation, women in active duty gained other protections. 

Uniformed service members received a 2.7 percent increase in pay, and the “pink tax” on military uniforms was eliminated. Women in the military also saw an expansion to child care access and changes to the military justice system. Now, an independent special prosecutor will handle specific crimes such as rape, sexual assault, murder and domestic violence — though some legislators argue that more needs to be done to destigmatize victims and create a truly independent process. 

The Military Moms Matter Act, championed by Rep. Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, was incorporated into the annual defense bill. Members of the military who have given birth now have more time to complete their physical fitness test postpartum. They are also guaranteed postpartum care, including mental health assessments, pelvic health treatment and other considerations for physical therapy. The provision also extends parental leave to 12 weeks for both primary and secondary caregivers. 

The provision was a direct result of talking to service members, Houlahan said. 

“I vividly remember sitting with Pennsylvania National Guard members of the 28th Infantry Division last spring, asking what could be done to help them balance the demands of serving their country and their civilian lives and careers,” Houlahan, a former Captain in the Air Force, said in a statement

Originally published by The 19th

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.