Poll: 70 percent of voters support full birth control coverage

Nearly three-quarters of voters support a move to require insurers to cover prescription contraceptives without charging patients, according to poll results released Tuesday.

Women's healthcare advocates are seizing on the results to bolster efforts to include those services as part of the mandatory preventive-care section of the new healthcare reform law.

Seventy-one percent of respondents said insurance companies should provide full coverage for birth control pills and other methods of prescription contraception, according to the survey. More than a third of female voters (34 percent) said they've struggled with birth control costs at some point in their lives, the poll found.

The poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates, was commissioned by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAF), an abortion rights group.

"We see too many women choosing between birth control and basics like rent, tuition and childcare," PPAF President Cecile Richards said in a statement. "Because our country leads the industrialized world in unintended and teen pregnancy, prescription birth control must be made available at no cost.” She also said “Making birth control available at no cost makes it possible for women to use the method that works best for them and will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies in America."

The new healthcare reform law requires companies to cover some preventive care for women without charging co-pays — treatments including mammograms and screenings for cervical cancer, anemia and osteoporosis (among other conditions). Contraceptives are not among the mandatory services specified, thought the list is not yet comprehensive. Instead, Congress charged the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) with compiling a complete list of covered services by Aug. 2011.

Among the other key poll findings:

• Sixty percent of male voters and 81 percent of female voters want HHS to include birth control prescriptions on its list of required preventive care services. 

• This includes 72 percent of Republican women and 77 percent of Catholic women, the pollsters found.

• Young women struggle disproportionately with birth control costs. Of women aged 18-34, 55 percent said they've had trouble paying for their contraceptives. 

The findings were based on a survey of 1,147 voters conducted over the summer.