Researchers emphasize health benefits of contraceptive insurance coverage

October 4, 2017

An editorial in the Oct. 3, 2017, online issue of Annals of Internal Medicine highlights the benefits of hormonal contraceptives and the need to continue coverage on health insurance plans.

The editorial is co-authored by Emory University researchers Carol J. Hogue, PhD, and Kelli Stidham Hall, PhD, at the Rollins School of Public Health and Melissa Kottke, MD, at  Emory University School of Medicine. The researchers respond to claims by government officials who reject the benefits of the contraceptives and support a new rule to reverse the current requirements of birth control coverage on health insurance plans.

The authors highlight and explain rigorous research that has found no overall increased risk of cancer incidence or mortality associated with prolonged, combined oral contraceptive use. They also emphasize the health benefits of hormonal contraceptive use including improvements in endometriosis  and other health conditions.

While these are important benefits, "the single most important health benefit associated with hormonal contraceptives is pregnancy prevention," the authors note. "Pregnancy incurs significant health risks and causes unique complications and non-trivial cases of severe morbidity and mortality." They also note that "not all contraceptive methods are equally effective," and that "if all couples used a combination of condoms with an IUD or combined oral contraceptive, there would be fewer maternal deaths, 80% fewer unintended pregnancies and about 150,000 fewer abortions in the U.S. each year." 

As the debate on federally assisted health insurance continues, researchers emphasize the need for policymakers to be informed on issues and the medical community to help educate on best practices, research and risk-benefit assessments. 

"The medical community has a responsibility to counter contraceptive misinformation with conclusions based upon the most rigorous research. It is incumbent on all to base healthcare recommendations, rules and access on evidence rather than sentiment."