Free birth control. Really? Well, sort of. And sort of not.

3268160011

Free birth control under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)? Really? For everyone? Well, maybe not. You might  have to wait until 2014.

The Affordable Care Act’s stipulation that preventive services should be free went into effect in August 2012, and many  women were ready to pick up their free birth control. Indeed, the ACA’s preventive care without out-of-pocket fees is an exciting prospect for many. But like almost all good things, the perks may come only after waiting.

But just how long will we have to wait? This depends.

Although the ACA has already gone into effect, many employer-provided insurance plans are exempt from

the provisions. Why? Because any employer plan that existed when the ACA passed in 2010 is officially grandfathered. That means the provider can continue to require co-payments for preventive services such as birth control (and mammograms, STD tests, cancer screenings, vaccines and more). Women’s health and rights expert Jodi Jacobson wrote a great opinion piece on this in the Huff Post last August.

But how do you know if your plan is grandfathered or not? Who do you call? What do you say? Check out this article by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) for a step-by-step guide.

So what if it turns out your plan is grandfathered? There’s still hope. The NWLC estimates that 90 percent of large U.S. companies will lose their grandfathered health-plan status by 2014.

You can also turn to HealthCare.gov for answers. According to HealthCare.gov, as of last August “approximately 47 million gained guaranteed access to additional preventive services without paying more at the doctors office.” So, clearly, some women are benefiting.

During our reporting on the price of birth-control pills, we have heard repeatedly from people who thought their pills would be free and found that they weren’t, or thought that they wouldn’t be free and found out that they were. Another common scenario: prices that vary month to month at the same pharmacy. In some of these cases, we think it’s simply an error somewhere in the system: a processing problem, perhaps. We have also heard about women who got a free IUD under the law, but that doesn’t seem to be common. Most of what we know is fragmentary and anecdotal.

We’d like to know more. Do you have free birth control under the ACA? Do you work for a company where the plan is grandfathered? Had problems finding a clear answer? Share your story with us: comment here, or email info [at] clearhealthcosts [dot] com.