Faculty members seeking to change lack of birth control coverage under BYU insurance

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A woman opens her daily oral birth control pill. Oral birth control is one form of contraception not covered by BYU health insurance. (Photo illustration by Decker Westenburg)

Full-time BYU employees are facing a particular set of problems resulting from BYU’s health insurance plan and its current lack of birth control coverage. 

BYU is currently covered by Deseret Mutual Benefit Administrators, its sole health insurance provider. Presently, birth control in any form is not directly covered by the insurance plan. This includes all oral birth control, hormonal birth control, intrauterine devices and barrier methods. 

Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance providers are obligated to include birth control in their coverage. However, based on the precedent set by the 2014 Supreme Court Case Burrell v Hobby Lobby, BYU is subject to a religious exemption, allowing exclusion of birth control and all other contraceptives from its coverage. 

Both students and faculty members have access to this plan, however, several faculty members told The Daily Universe they are adversely affected by its stipulations, as it is the only insurance plan provided to them as full-time employees at BYU.

In the BYU health plan itself, the list of coverage exclusions includes “family planning, including contraception, birth control devices, surgery and/or drugs.”

Because of these exclusions, those who are under this plan have no birth control and contraceptive coverage. If birth control is needed, one must pay out of pocket, or seek birth control at other sources, such as nonprofit clinics like Planned Parenthood

According to BYU history professor Rebecca de Schweinitz, it’s a particular “point of pain” for those who are seeking help during difficult-to-navigate health matters. 

“One of the perennial concerns that faculty across campus have, female or male, is how lack of access to birth control is impacting their family,” de Schweinitz said. “In this blanket policy, there have been some blind spots that I think are not meeting faculty needs.”

Public health professor Brianna Magnusson said not having contraceptive coverage can directly impact a woman’s employment, health, mental health, education and relationships. “Contraception is an important part of general well-being for women.”

There has been a concerted effort to address this issue, specifically through the Faculty Advisory Council. The council, run by BYU faculty members, provides a platform to discuss concerns that relate to BYU and its relationship to employees.

The Faculty Advisory Council has, under the leadership of faculty such as de Schweinitz, drafted two proposals in an attempt to address the issue of birth control accessibility on campus.

These proposals, one written in 2020 and one in 2021, have included possible solutions. According to Magnusson, who was a Faculty Advisory Council member for three years, the main resolutions call for either a change in BYU’s insurance policy or the provision that full-time faculty members are able to access third-party insurance coverage. 

The most recent proposal asks the administration to assign someone within the BYU Benefits Office to become a birth control advocate. This advocate would help those in need of birth control and contraceptives navigate the insurance plan and other outside options.

De Schweinitz said the Faculty Advisory Council will meet sometime this fall to discuss the resolutions included in the most recent proposal.

Public health professor Lori Spruance said despite this lack of coverage, many faculty members want students and faculty to know that birth control and contraceptives are an important women’s health issue.

“This is part of your health, and is necessary. Use the resources you have access to,” Spruance said.

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