Members of the media, here in Seattle and across Washington state, have picked up on our survey of insurance companies providing insurance under the state health exchange, which found that insurers’ customer service representatives provided false, misleading, and contradictory information about what forms of birth control they covered. (The correct answer: Every FDA-approved method, including NuvaRing, IUDs, and emergency contraception). Consistently, callers were told that insurance companies did not provide a particular method, required women to pay a copay or coinsurance to get the method prescribed by their doctor, or did not know what benefits they provided and were, in some cases, unwilling to find out.
Here’s what the press has to say about the report, published jointly by Northwest Health Law Advocates and NARAL Pro-Choice Washington .
The Seattle Times: “We were surprised. Some of it was fairly shocking,” said Janet Varon, executive director of Northwest Health Law Advocates, or NoHLA, which conducted the survey in conjunction with NARAL Pro-Choice Washington.
PubliCola : “The study’s findings run in direct conflict with not only the ACA mandate, but also with the eight companies’ official filings with the State Office of the Insurance Commissioner, all of which say they cover all FDA-approved contraceptive methods to customers free of charge.”
The PI.com: “[Insurance Commissioner Mike] Kreidler said he was ‘surprised’ and ‘very disappointed’ at results of a ‘secret shopper survey’ conducted last year, in which women working with Northwest Health Law Advocates and NARAL Pro-Choice Washington made calls to insurers.
“’This information needs to be communicated when a woman makes a phone call, and it wasn’t,’ Kreidler said.”
The Associated Press: “A 2014 phone survey conducted by pro-abortion rights groups of the eight health insurers selling plans inside Washington state’s exchange — Wahealthplanfinder — found that women seeking information about contraceptive coverage were routinely given false or inaccurate information.”
KPLU (in Seattle): “In some cases, specific types of birth control were listed as being covered on a company’s website, but were not mentioned to the caller shopping for insurance who asked specifically about birth control. In other cases callers were told they had to pay a $50 co-pays and prescriptions costs when none were needed.”
The (Vancouver) Columbian: “A secret shopper survey conducted last year revealed health insurers in Washington systematically gave women false or inaccurate information about contraceptive coverage.”
NARAL Pro-Choice Washington Executive Director Rachel Berkson said, “We were disappointed to find out that insurance company representatives were providing inaccurate information to their customers, but encouraged by the insurance commissioner’s work to bring insurers in line with the Affordable Care Act. We will remain vigilant and monitor insurance companies to make sure they provide all methods of birth control at no cost to women, as required by the ACA.”
NARAL Pro-Choice Washington plans to continue to monitor insurance companies’ progress toward meeting the goals laid out in the federal Affordable Care Act and report back on how the companies are doing after we sit down again with the Insurance Commissioner, NoHLA, and representatives of the eight companies in October.