Can someone tell me…

…why insurance plans at LDS-owned institutions do not provide coverage for birth control? Last time I checked, our theology and official church policy statements would not support such an exclusion.


  1. They do, incidentally, cover Viagra. Just sayin’.

  2. It is cheaper to not cover it.

  3. We discussed this at FPR in Oct. 2009:

    At the time, I was teaching at BYU. Good thing we can go to Plan Parenthood and get affordable birth control there. ;)

  4. The crazy thing is DMBA does cover one form of birth control–vasectomy, but you have to meet one of three qualifications. (from memory) 1) wife’s health 2) wife has had at least 5 pregnancies 3) wife is over 40. We were going to go with this option after the birth of our fourth daughter (I figured my 2 miscarriages should count as pregnancies) but then my husband decided against it after handbook 2 was put online with such strong language discouraging them.

    I used flex money for an IUD instead. I still think its highly suspect/ironic.

  5. “it’s”

  6. Kristen Says No says:

    “Why pay when there is Planned Parenthood?”

  7. Unconscionable. It should be interesting to see how this plays out in the next year and a half, and whether ir not it will change quietly.

  8. I’m inclined to think that it won’t change quietly, especially not after this week’s controversial directive from HHS–my hunch is that it may become a rallying point for those in the hierarchy who are concerned about threats to religious freedom.

  9. I’m leaning toward much ado about nothing. I don’t work for the church and my insurance doesn’t cover Birth Control either.

  10. Everyone knows Planned Parenthood is a front organization for the Prince of Darkness himself, Lord Soros.

  11. it's a series of tubes says:

    Incidentally, at least 4 different birth control medications are available at Walmart for $4 a month.

  12. Last Lemming says:

    Whatever the original rationale, this has now become an issue of “religious liberty,” and the Church is going to stand firm in solidarity with the Catholics. Employees of LDS institutions (but not the Church itself) should pay close attention to the health insurance exchanges as they operate during their first year (2014), because they are going to be thrown onto them in 2015, when the church-related institutions drop their employee health insurance altogether.

    This is not the disaster that it sounds like, however. Most of the money now going toward insurance (averaging $11,000 for family plans in 2011) will go toward higher wages for the employees, who will be able to use them to buy insurance through the exchanges ($2,000 will go to the government as a penalty, however). And with all of the BYU, Bonneville, and Deseret Book employees thrown onto the exchange, the risk pool for the Utah exchange will become significantly more diverse, thereby lowering premiums. Furthermore, government subsidies will lower insurance costs even further so that families earning as much as $90,000 would come out ahead. (To estimate what you would pay for insurance through an exchange in 2014, see

    The budget implications are another story. But the claims that this whole issue will strand millions without access to either health insurance or birth control (depending on which side you are on) are completely off base.

  13. “I’m leaning toward much ado about nothing.”

    Yeah, I think you may be proving a point.

  14. “Incidentally, at least 4 different birth control medications are available at Walmart for $4 a month.”

    While we are sharing…so is my generic Prozac. FYI.

  15. iasot,

    In general, I think the practical issues are relatively easily solved. It’s the principles at stake that are interesting.

  16. Money, I’m sure. DMBA is not very good insurance.

  17. My plan at work doesn’t cover it. It’s considered a personal choice and not a medical necessity.

  18. Last Lemming says:

    Money, I’m sure

    I don’t think so. Insurance companies love to cover birth control. It is much cheaper than babies.

  19. Steve Evans says:


  20. Mark Brown says:

    Wow, high priests of a certain age can get their Viagra covered by DMBA.

    This is so awesome, and reconfirms my testimony that the church is True.

  21. I think both (2) and (18) are actually correct. It’s cheaper to cover birth control if you want to limit the number of kids. However if you’re covering middle class people who are married chances are they already will be using birth control. Further in the Utah market you’re already going to have people having more kids. i.e. they feel if they screw up well they were going to have four kids eventually anyway. If you’re having to cover pregnancy anyway then covering birth control and pregnancy doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    Outside of the Utah area the calculation is probably different.

    I should also note that not all insurance does cover pregnancy. I know IHC who I use has two main policies. One with coverage and one without. The one with pregnancy coverage is much more expensive. I think many people don’t realize these things because oddly in America most people get their insurance through work. So they don’t really realize how much money extra they are getting paid that goes to that insurance.

    One hopes that if Romney is elected he tries to push through a plan to move America off of employer insurance. (Obama wouldn’t do it due to the benefit most labor unions have with health insurance)

  22. To add, while it may be anathema to many Mormons, if you swing by Planed Parenthood you can get ridiculously cheap birth control. They may not have the kind you like though.

  23. observer fka eric s says:

    That would aid and abet a disruption in multiplication and replenishment services upon the earth.

  24. Huh – I work for the Church, and my insurance covers birth control. Could it be the Church doesn’t actually have anyone coordinating things they want to deny workers in every part of their domain?

  25. This is why health insurance should not be tied to employment.

  26. To Frank: I work for the church and I am absolutely certain that none of my BC over the past 12 years has been covered. DMBA is my insurer. Now, what state do you work in? Many states already require it to be covered just like the new health care law would.

  27. I’m a grad student at BYU and was thrilled when we finally got prescription coverage… and then was really grumpy when I found out that my birth control was excluded. I don’t take it for pregnancy prevention, I take it for health reasons – I have PCOS and don’t produce hormones in the correct amounts. I’m actually terrified of the Republican candidates with their crazy anti-birth control leanings. If (God forbid) there were ever to be movement in that direction, what would happen for women with PCOS or endometriosis?

  28. Margo – I work for the Church History Department (actually for ICS, the department with all the computer people from what I can tell, but in the CHL), in Salt Lake. My insurance in UHC, not DMBA, so that may make a difference. My wife is one of those who uses birth control for health reasons other than actualy controlling birth, so it is always one of those things we watch out for. I certainly agree that it is a silly thing not to cover, since it is used to a variey of health reasons, I just dislike thorwing blanket statements on the whole Church for what is more likely an hr decision of each different department.

  29. Huh. I seem to remember finally getting on good BC while an undergrad at BYU. Though like Kalliope, it’s for PCOS and I had a backlog of ‘tried, no good’ varieties that made me horrifically sick. Maybe I was just overpaying and didn’t realise?

    Add me to the group who’s not employed by the Church and doesn’t have BC coverage.

  30. Of course, the real problem is the ridiculous funding of nearly all medical expenditures through the boondoggle called “health insurance.” But that’s an argument for a different post.

    If in fact there are all kinds of private insurers that for whatever reason don’t cover birth control (how much is a pack of condoms these days anyway??), isn’t the real question not “why doesn’t the Church’s health insurance plan cover the cost?” but “why do so many health insurers not cover the cost?”

  31. Kalliope, I think only one candidate is anti-birth control: Santorum. The rest might think it inappropriate to tell insurance companies what they do or don’t cover. But that’s really a completely different issue.

  32. it's a series of tubes says:

    It’s the principles at stake that are interesting.

    I couldn’t disagree more. As various commenters have noted, I don’t think the principles at stake are what you seem to be insinuating.

    Much ado about nothing in an uninteresting area.

  33. The whole birth control is cheaper than pregnancy argument doesn’t make much sense. In a world where no one ever wants to get pregnant it’s true. In a world where all babies are accidents it’s true. But in a world where people decide when to get pregnant and decide not to get pregnant, it’s false. The middle ground is to ask how many accidental births are there from people having unprotected sex compared to the total cost of paying for birth control 100% of the time?

    I would think even with good data statisticians and economics could make a good argument for both sides.

    Also regarding the price, you have to factor in the elasticity of demand. Do people decide to stop taking birth control and risk getting pregnant because birth control is too expensive? (pregnancy is not cheap!)

    Will the argument then be that people don’t think rationally, so we have to think rationally for them… ie. they’re thinking rationally about their immediate finances but to dumb to think rationally about their finances if they get pregnant?

    Or will the argument just be that it’s the mythical poor and dumb people who don’t realize child rearing is expensive, but don’t care about pregnancy costs because the state pays for it, and since the state pays for the “ideal” poor dumb person’s pre/post natal care the state has an interest to get involved in making sure that poor person doesn’t get pregnant? (although in this case, insurance has got nothing to do with it as they’d be on medicaid)

    Ultimate, I think this discussion points to the larger problem of “health insurance” and how we think about it — which is really what is driving all the other problems (compounded by regulations driving the costs up). When doctors and scientists are increasingly doing amazing things, we increasingly want someone else to pay the bill because someone else has always paid the bill when we went to a doctor. We don’t have a cultural understanding of paying for ongoing medical related benefits or needs.

    So with every new “want/need” we presume they should be added into the plan and automatically covered to some degree. I wonder if anyone in economics has ever researched the problems with ultra-specialization combined with broad coverage insurance markets. With a general insurance (fire insurance for instance) you don’t have 10,000 different types of firemen with 10,000 different types of fire trucks, and 10,000 different types of fire hoses, each combination of the above being a possible “need” that must be covered under your insurance… Does specialization in an insurance market drive up the cost?

  34. The funny thing is that if you call up the BYU Health Center to tell them you’re getting married and want a check-up, they automatically assume you want a prescription for BC. A friend of mine who believes in a more natural approach to BC, was a little unnerved by this.

  35. The health insurance industry has an embarrassing history of disparate services for women. Obama mentioned this in his SOTU address. Pregnancy, post-birth hospital services, birth control, well woman check-ups, mammograms (for various ages and conditions), etc. have all at some point or another been issues of contention and required advocacy to secure. (Anyone else remember in the Clinton days, the knock-down fight over getting insurance companies and hospitals to allow at risk moms and/or cesarean section moms to stay in the hospital up to at least 48 hours post birth? The “same-day surgery” double mastectomies that were under scrutiny a few years back?) Equal services and treatment? No way man.

    We don’t work for the church, but our health insurance didn’t cover pregnancy OR birth control in our 20’s or early 30’s. Great. I got 5 years of a 25 year fertility window covered. Whoopie. (Pun not intended).

    And, if that weren’t enough . . . I was recently calculating the cost of feminine hygiene products and realizing that they are not covered by my flex spending account. Q-tips and cotton balls, aspirin, zip creme, dandruff shampoo, OTC eye drops, chocolate calcium vitamin chews, and cough syrup- YES. Feminine hygiene products? No. ]

  36. It seems to me like many of the “Insurance carriers at my high school failed to cover birth control all the time. It was no big deal” type of comments are missing the point. The question to ask is “Why would the church (or any of its departments) select a health insurer that doesn’t cover birth control?” not “Why do health insurers that don’t cover birth control exist?”

    Reducing cost for the church may be a sufficient explanation, but it’s not necessarily the correct one. And, even if it were, that seems like a cost the church should want to shoulder for its employees despite higher institutional insurance costs, given its public stances on the importance of family and the legitimate use of birth control.

  37. Same reason they don’t sell caffeine products at BYU. The church doesnt say you can’t drink a Pepsi, but the they would rather not tacitly endorse it, either. They don’t say you can’t use both control, but again, the appearance of tacit endorsement is too sticky.

    I also vote “much ado about nothing.” I’ve been on about six insurance plans since getting married, and I don’t think a single one offered birth control. If the church didn’t have the problem with appearances, they’d still be inclined to go cheap.

  38. Man, love my iPod’s autocorrect!

  39. That doesn’t explain why Viagra is covered.

  40. I think the number of comments from people whose basic health insurance didn’t cover birth control demonstrate the motivation for the current administration to put that into requirements for policies which meet the laws criteria for employer-based coverage. The argument is akin to “My job doesn’t provide me a reasonable retirement so those darn school teachers shouldn’t get one either!” It looks like the administration is going to hammer out some religious exclusion on BC, anyway. This still begs the question as to why the church wants to tacitly or explicitly claim that offering BC in its insurance plans is in some way tied to our religion. I hate the “secret club of those who know” taint about the whole thing. BC as the caffeinated Mountain Dew and Naked juice campus bans seems just a bit trivializing don’t you think?

    Yet the church covers $20 a pill ED drugs for the men. I guess that makes sense if the church’s health insurance policy choices are predicated on marginally increasing “married potentially child producing sex”. On that note anyone familiar can anyone familiar with church insurance tell us what the infertility and adoption coverage is like?

  41. The whole multiply and replenish the earth thing. If that’s the only thing holding a couple back, well that’s a cheap fix.

    Then there’s the happy marriage thing. It’s not just the men who benefit from the Viagra, you know.

    I don’t see an inconsistency.

  42. iasat–could you tell me what I’m insinuating? Because I don’t actually know–I’m honestly curious about how these questions might play out now that they’ve become an issue with Catholic institutions. You might be surprised if I told you which way I lean on the question of whether birth control coverage ought to be mandated. But I haven’t told you, or even hinted.

  43. For normal insurance companies the cost of birth control versus the costs of unplanned pregnancy has been quantified many times. The money spent is recovered in costs savings 3 times over. However that doesn’t necessarily work with the church. Since DMBA is owned by the church and covers LDS policy holders a larger birthrate means greater future tithing receipts. It’s essentially an annuity that has a upfront cost which is the delta between birth control and additional pregnancies and the related hospital costs in addition to the future care for that child. The payout on the annuity is that 40% of those children will be future lifetime tithing payers.

    I’m not saying this was the decision making process but it would be a brilliant one if it was.

  44. Brilliant?

  45. Creepy, but brilliant.

  46. larger birthrate means greater future tithing receipts

    Which totally explains why many other policies of the secular variety (including some I’ve had) don’t cover it, either.

  47. Plus, tithes are not the source of Church wealth. At this point we could blame this on the Federal Reserve. Utah does not require it, so DMBA does not offer it. Now, we might expect the Church to act on higher standards….but we know better.

  48. it's a series of tubes says:

    could you tell me what I’m insinuating?

    Kristine, one sentence of your two sentence original post stated: “Last time I checked, our theology and official church policy statements would not support such an exclusion.” To me, that seemed to be another way of saying “It appears that the Church is not practicing what it preaches”. My apologies if I misunderstood you.

    As to your position on mandated BC coverage, I agree that your OP gave no clue as to how you might personally lean.

  49. Central Standard says:


    #20 Mark, does DMBA really state an age and that you have to be a high priest? I thought an elder was ‘all the priesthood you needed.’

  50. Fairchild says:

    Hmmm, I know I got BCP no problem at the BYU health center as a married student. Pretty sure I had the school insurance too or maybe I just paid on a sliding scale? So long ago I can’t remember how I paid for them but neither DH nor I had health insurance through our part-time jobs.

  51. iasot, ok–gotcha. No, I really think it could be just the cost issues and, as many have pointed out, that it’s crappy insurance anyway. But I suspect that many people read more into it than that, and I wonder if, in the wake of the HHS policy, the church might try to claim a religious exemption, in which case I _do_ think it would be not practicing what it preaches.

    I was being more lazy than coy in the OP. Sorry.

  52. ” … expect the Church to act on higher standards … ”

    Increasing margins is what makes this, or any, country great. Also, societies in the Book of Mormon did best when they played it tough and looked to the bottom line.

  53. StillConfused says:

    I personally don’t think insurances should cover birth control. Not because of a religious or whatever reason, but simply because I am an advocate of insurance that covers major medical events and not routine items. When routine items are covered, it just jacks up the premiums.

    My policy does not cover pregnancy or mental illness (don’t worry, all of my personalities are okay with that) and so my policy is substantially cheaper than others in my age bracket.

  54. There are plenty of employers who do not pay for birth control. I don’t think it is a religious issue. Honest questions about how “The Church” rolls are usually snarky in general on some of the “LDS” websites. Yesterdays celebration on the court decision in CA was generally applauded on many “faithful” sites. I’m not surprised some misunderstood you, I did.

  55. I have been known to be snarky myself–I’m not bothered by the misunderstanding.

  56. Ask all the “Catholic” priests ranting about this whether it is a “religious issue.” Or maybe the BYU-I “religion professor” with his web page commited to the “evils” of birth control.

    Which “faithful” “blogs” posted about the “court ruling”? I announced it at “FPR,” but I was merely announcing it. Was that snarky? Am I bugging you? I wouldn’t want to bug ya!

  57. Justin T. says:

    There are basically three ways to pay for birth control:

    1) Give your pharmacist $50 each month.
    2) Give your insurance company $50 each month, who gives it to your pharmacist.
    3) Have you employer withhold $50 from your paycheck each month and give it to an insurance company, who gives it to your pharmacist.

    Many people see option 3 as morally superior to the others, though I’m not quite sure why.

  58. Most of the money now going toward insurance (averaging $11,000 for family plans in 2011) will go toward higher wages for the employees, who will be able to use them to buy insurance through the exchanges ($2,000 will go to the government as a penalty, however).

    Yeah … I see that as more profit for the companies.

  59. Kristine — the issue is that buying birth control through your health plan rather than through a pharmacy’s “five dollar plan” does not reduce the cost. The assumption is that everyone will need it. So it just moves the price point up for the entire plan without any beneficial change.

    As #57 points out, there are three ways to pay for birth control:

    1) Give your pharmacist $50 each month, or perhaps $30.00 if you are able to shop around and use generics.
    2) Give your insurance company $50 each month for the medicine, + $15 for processing and transaction costs, who gives it to your pharmacist.
    3) Have you employer withhold $50 from your paycheck each month at a cost of $1.00, + the $15.00 (or withhold $66.00) for the insurance company and give $65.00 to an insurance company, who gives it to your pharmacist.

    Now, there can be tax advantages to 2 and 3. But for most people, especially given alternatives and the way that generics and methods play out (invariably, people who buy things themselves tend to spend less), the process is more like (in practice, in universities):

    1) Insurance coverage: spend $600.00 a year for medications, etc.
    2) Buy it yourself: spend $150.00 a year.

    Of course it has been a while since I looked at the numbers. They may have well changed, and I was reading about university health systems and costs.

    But this is not a change where the insurance does not change price if the coverage is added. The cost of the insurance goes up.

  60. Kalliope — bless your heart. Your condition is one that should be covered even if the plan does not cover birth control. Hormonal regulation is a significant issue and I wince when I think of the pain (I knew someone with the condition and they basically went into labor every 28 days or so).

  61. I have had three insurance plans in that many years, all since I left BYU. None of them cover birth control. It’s just not a thing.

    When I was at BYU, this always confused me, and I believed (like the original poster, I presume) that this was a subtle hint by the powers that be to have more children. Now I realize that in fact, NO insurance covers birth control, and so many BYU students have children either because they don’t understand birth control from lack of sex ed, or they actually want children.

  62. To one of #53’s points, the idea that there’s a direct correlation between routine medical items and the price of premiums isn’t necessarily true. My company recently changed their insurance provider – the premiums went up, and the coverage of routine items went down. Under the new plan the premium has gone up $50 a paycheck and the out-of-pocket for the prescription went up by $20 a month and I have to purchase it through the insurance company’s mail-order pharmacy.

  63. The majority of states mandate equitable coverage so it is not an issue in the northeast. Utah of course does not. I still maintain it’s mostly about cost, with perhaps a bit of the caffeine vending machine argument as well. My parents are both church employees so we had DMBA growing up, and they were pretty awful. Constant fights about everything, routine denial of claims, pre-approvals, paperwork for everything. And the prescription coverage is not very good. My brother is still on my parent’s plan and last year they jacked up the copay for his medication from $125/mo to $800/mo. He now just imports it from Canada for far cheaper. Of course everyone can share insurance horror stories but my experience now, being employed for a decent sized university that also self insures, but has nowhere near the heathy risk pool that are LDS church employees, has been quite good. More things covered, flat rate affordable prescription copays, etc. Part of this is due to the regulatory differences between Utah and here, I am sure. But when it comes down to it, the church is pretty cheap with regard to compensation and benefits, and I’m pretty sure this is just a reflection of them trying to save money more than anything.

  64. Last Lemming says:

    I see that as more profit for the companies.

    If employers could profit by reducing each employees’ compensation by $11,000 per year, they would do it in any case. Whatever forces are stopping them from doing it now would stop them from doing it when the birth control mandate kicks in. So they will have to maintain the same level of compensation, just change the form in which it is delivered.

  65. My medical school insurance doesn’t cover birth control.

    However, trisprintec is only $9 a month at walmart.

  66. maybe it is the principle of the thing. The principle being that it is not the federal government’s job to tell businesses which insurance company to use.

    When we had DMBA, it was great for us. Never a fact when there were issues, they called us and told us what they were working on. I had twins with DMBA and the dr was relieved to hear what I had and told me he could do whatever he wanted to with that insurance-which gave me pause as to what he did with other insurances. Compare that to blue cross of CA which fought tooth and nail with me for the most basic things from my first pregnancy.

  67. I’ve never had trouble getting BC at the BYU Health Center. They practically give it out like candy. :-) They prescribed me BC for anemia and it was very affordable. And from my roommates’ (and other friends’) experience, if a woman is getting married, she hears something like this from a BYU Health Center doctor, “Oh, so you’re going to want BC, right?” The doctors just assume you want it, even if you don’t. Most women I know who have gotten married while at BYU (I’ve been here for a number of years, since I did my BA and am currently working on my MA) got on BC while here. Believe me, if they got pregnant it’s either because they wanted to or because they weren’t taking it regularly. The general trend at BYU is to be on BC for a year or two while you and your husband finish school. It’s actually a little disconcerting. (I say this in light of some of the problems that are associated with BC use, not because I necessarily think BC is a bad thing–I just think women who have a history of breast cancer in their family should be aware of the risks.)

  68. Please tell me that it’s not true that Viagra is covered whereas the pill is not. Say it isn’t so.

  69. This is actually a relatively common exclusion for insurance companies, so I’m not sure it’s religiously motivated at all. A friend of mine is a health economist and is writing a paper about it; many states have passed laws requiring insurance companies who provide any form of prescription drug coverage to also cover birth control. She has found that the result has been lower insurance payouts, and also lower birth rates and fewer abortions. Basically, birth control coverage is in everyone’s best interest, including the insurance companies.

  70. So, like any large corporation, the church is probably “woo’ed’ by potential health insurance systems. HI company A pitches a set of plans and services, then company B, then C. The corporation can begin negotiating with the numbers. “Hey, we like your plan, but B and C give us this, can you throw that in too?” Every few years the whole shabang is reviewed.

    Question: How many females work at sufficiently high levels in the Church Office Building and are part of those negotiations? How many people sit at that table with a female perspective to advocate for $4 bc pills instead of $20/pill viagra? If there is a majority of feminist-minded female church employees going to bat for other female church employees and their female family members at the levels of decision-making, then I’ll eat my hat.

  71. Wait — they don’t sell Naked brand juices at BYU? Really? No . . . really?! My, how offensive that N word, even when used in a way that doesn’t refer to the human body, much less sex.

  72. So, does DMBA pay for Viagra for men who have had vasectomies?

  73. DMBA *will* pay for birth control once you’ve had five children. Maybe someone mentioned that already, but I don’t feel like reading through all the comments right now.

    (This of course is not their officially stated policy, but I know of several people who have been told this by DMBA over the phone.)

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