Report: Misinformation about contraceptive coverage remains

Health plan customer service reps often give women inaccurate information about available types of contraception and costs, according to a new report.

Northwest Health Law Advocates released Thursday its new progress report on information provided to women making decisions about contraception. The report found that most health insurers with plans on the state-based health exchange present clear information about contraception coverage on their websites, but their customer service representatives often provide inaccurate information.

Northwest Health Law Advocates first investigated the issue in 2015 and, since then, most health insurers have clarified contraceptive coverage options for consumers and have simplified their procedures for approving non-formulary contraceptives, according to the organization.

However, calls to customer service reps revealed that some were still providing inaccurate information – often contradicting information on their websites.

Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurers must cover all federally approved methods of contraception with no copays or co-insurance (with few exceptions).

The new report found that representatives of all carriers except one are not uniformly providing accurate contraceptive coverage and cost-sharing information; one carrier doesn’t include all medical methods in its formulary and others place certain methods on higher coverage tiers; and one carrier lacks contraceptive waiver or exemption process.

Most of the erroneous information came from customer service reps telling women they would have to pay cost-sharing for emergency contraception and medical methods of contraception (implants and IUDs).

“Correct information from insurers is critical to enabling women to access contraception, avoid unintended pregnancies, and exercise control over their reproductive health,” said Janet Chung, Legal and Legislative Counsel for Legal Voice., in a news release.

Since the 2015 report, though, the insurance carriers have made progress, including:

  • Seven of the nine carriers now list medical methods in their formularies.
  • Eight carriers have created comprehensive flyers for consumers.
  • Four carriers now cover over-the-counter emergency contraception with no cost-sharing (including Kaiser and Molina, which offer plans in Clark County).
  • Seven carriers have a specific contraceptive waiver or exemption process.

“Women need full, accurate, up-to-date information in order to make informed health care decisions. We’re encouraged by the improvements insurers have made to the information they provide online; we hope they will continue this progress by taking the next, crucial step and training their customer service representatives to provide accurate information about women’s contraceptive options,” said Tiffany Hankins, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, in the news release.

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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