(Thinkstock)Paying for birth control? Not anymore. Health insurance companies are required to stop charging women co-pays for contraceptives such as birth control and condoms Wednesday under new rules in President Barack Obama's health care reform law. The stipulation also requires plans to cover cervical cancer checks, sterilization and a few other women's health care expenses without a co-pay.
Insurance plans that haven't changed significantly since 2010 are "grandfathered" out of this rule, however, and plans that renew Jan. 1 instead of Aug. 1 won't have to provide the care for free until then. Religiously affiliated institutions, such as Catholic colleges, won't have to provide the coverage until next summer because the Obama administration granted them an extra year to come into compliance. Many of these religious companies and nonprofits have sued, saying the rule violates their freedom of religion. Obama has argued that the insurance company, not the employer, will foot the bill for the contraceptives because providing them will eventually save the insurance companies money due to fewer unplanned pregnancies.
Last week, a judge sided with a Colorado-based air conditioning company, Hercules Industries, whose owners said providing contraception to their employees through their insurance plan would violate their religion. The judge said the company does not have to comply, but that his decision applies only to Hercules.