The White House said Friday that a Hawaii law requiring health insurance companies to cover birth control hasn’t resulted in higher premiums.

The assertion comes while the White House is fending off criticism about a new health care reform law that requires insurers to cover contraception. The controversy escalated when Catholic leaders raised alarms that religious employers would have to pay for birth control, which runs afoul of church beliefs.

The White House press office released a fact sheet that said the following:

Covering contraception saves money for insurance companies by keeping women healthy and preventing spending on other health services. For example, there was no increase in premiums when contraception was added to the Federal Employees Health Benefit System and required of non-religious employers in Hawaii.

We contacted the White House press office, local health insurance companies, the Healthcare Association of Hawaii the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Insurance Division and the National Women’s Law Center.

The White House press office pointed us to a 2001 report from the Hawaii Insurance Commissioner which surveyed the state’s major health insurers. The study was completed two years after Hawaii implemented a law requiring insurance companies to cover contraception. Religious groups were exempt from the law.

The report found no direct link between birth control costs and rising health insurance costs:

Given the responses from each of the health plans surveyed we conclude that, Act 267 of the 1999 Session Laws of Hawaii did not appear to have a direct affect on an increase in the cost of health insurance.

The National Women’s Law Center didn’t have data specific to Hawaii, but provided national data that shows why contraception coverage doesn’t raise costs. Two reports show that the costs of unintended pregnancies and childbirth outweigh the extra costs of covering the contraception.

The National Business Group of Health, a nonprofit that represents large employer interests on health policy issues, estimates that employers can save between $9,000 to $14,000 over a five-year period by covering contraception. It also found that not providing coverage could cost an employer 15 percent to 17 percent more a year.

The Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit that studies reproductive health issues, found that when it comes to Medicaid, every dollar spent on publicly funded contraception saves $3.74 in expenditures on pregnancy-related care for unintended births as well as one year of medical care for the infants.

Bottom Line: The White House’s statement is true. Contraception coverage has not increased health care costs or raised premiums in Hawaii. National studies show that this is because the costs related to unintended pregnancies outweighs the costs of covering birth control.

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