Rule cuts fertility awareness family planning methods from insurance coverage

Women’s health care is in the news a lot these days, but one story that hasn’t been in the news enough is how a new US Department of Health and Human Services rule excludes women insurance coverage for certain family planning methods.

The rule says that insurance companies do not need to cover fertility awareness-based family planning methods, although these companies are required to cover contraceptives and abortion-inducing devices and drugs. In other words, the federal government, with the approval of President Joe Biden, is punishing women for wanting to listen to and understand their bodies.

I work as a nurse practitioner, and many of my clients are women seeking family planning and fertility awareness-based health care. They choose these methods for many reasons. While some use these methods because of their religious convictions, others are drawn to these methods because they want to learn how to work with the natural cycles of their bodies. Fertility awareness-based methods can be very helpful in detecting underlying problems such as endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome, allowing women to seek treatment rather than simply masking symptoms through contraception.

Those methods, however, are under fire from the federal government, for no reason beyond the preferences of government officials. In May, I filed a lawsuit in federal district court challenging this rule, and more recently, the court agreed to temporarily stop enforcement of the rule while my lawsuit continues.

This is important because the rule goes into effect on December 31. Had the court not issued an injunction to stop enforcement of the rule while my case progresses, on January 1st, I would not have been able to provide my patients with the care they want and need unless they can pay out of pocket.

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This rule is nothing more than an abuse of government power. As backroom bureaucrats write meaningless rules, the patients I serve will go uncared for, and the poorer my patients, the harsher this rule will be.

I participate in a unique system that allows me to help ensure that women most in need have access to health care that helps them listen and take care of their bodies naturally. We bill insurance providers and then donate the proceeds to a nonprofit clinic that provides health care to those who need it, whether they can pay or not. This works because the Affordable Care Act prevents insurance plans from billing women for “preventive care and screenings.” Instead, it requires insurance companies to cover this preventive care. Insurance companies reimburse him at $300 to $450 per session, and new patients receive instruction about six times in the first five months.

In 2016, HHS added fertility awareness-based family planning methods to this category, ensuring that all women, including those who value learning about and listening to their bodies’ natural rhythms, have access to preventive care. And as a result, we were able to bill insurance companies for this, allowing patients who can’t afford it to access these services and allowing us to donate more to those in need.

But in December 2021, HHS removed these fertility awareness-based family planning methods from the list of methods insurance had to cover. It did so covertly, without using the notice and comment process or providing any substantiation, both of which are required by the Administrative Procedure Act. In other words, HHS decided that it does not condone women using natural fertility awareness-based methods to understand their own bodies and decide when to grow their families, so it illegally excluded those methods.

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I filed a lawsuit to ask the court to allow me to continue serving women and their families with the health care they need, and to prevent the federal government from penalizing women who are interested in natural family planning methods based on fertility awareness. By eliminating those methods of being eligible for insurance reimbursement, the administration is preventing healthcare professionals from being able to serve the most needy women in our community.

Cami Jo Tice-Harouff is a Family Nurse Practitioner in Longview. She wrote this for The Dallas Morning News.

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