Oklahoma County employees now have birth-control options 

No matter what form of birth control is chosen, Oklahoma County employees now have full health care coverage to avoid pregnancy.

Last week, the Oklahoma County Board of Commissioners approved changes in the county's health insurance plan which not only covers the costs of contraceptives, but the medical procedures associated with some of the birth control methods. All three commissioners " Willa Johnson, Brent Rinehart and Ray Vaughn " voted for the proposal with no debate.

The idea to change the policy came from County Clerk Carolynn Caudill and Court Clerk Patricia Presley, who presented the proposal to the Oklahoma County Budget Board on Aug. 21.

"Patty and I, being the only two women on the budget board, cut the conversation short and said, 'This needs to be paid for,'" Caudill said.

Birth control pills were already covered under the plan, but the change now allows for other contraceptives like diaphragms and intrauterine devices (IUD) to be available with county employees' health insurance. An IUD is a T-shaped plastic device that is wrapped in copper or contains hormones and is inserted by a doctor. The device prevents fertilization of the egg by damaging or killing sperm. The IUD also affects the uterine lining.

Under the county's previous health plan, insurance would pay for the purchase of a diaphragm or IUD but would not pay for the insertion procedure unless it was deemed medically necessary. The budget board was told that most doctors do not consider implanting a diaphragm or IUD to prevent pregnancy as a medical need. If the contraceptive would help with other health issues like high blood pressure, then doctors are more inclined to label the procedure medically necessary, which the insurance plan would cover.

"I think we should pay for all forms of contraceptives," Presley said at the Aug. 21 meeting.

It has only been in the last few years that any form of contraceptive has been covered by the county's health insurance. Caudill said that when it came to the board's attention that Viagra, a drug used to treat erectile dysfunction, was covered but not the birth control pill, the policy was changed.

Debra Clark, who manages the county's health insurance plan, said lately there has been a rush of employees being prescribed IUDs.

"We did think this was something the elected officials needed to consider," Clark said. "We think this is a positive thing. It's cheaper to pay for these devices than to pay for pregnancy."

The move by the county comes amid concerns over a new proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which would require health care providers to comply with a federal law that prohibits discriminating against individuals who refuse to perform abortions. Some women's organizations claim it is an attempt to cut into abortion rights. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America has written to HHS asking for the proposal to be dropped on concerns it would cause some doctors not to prescribe contraceptives. "Scott Cooper

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