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Insurance Coverage for Birth Control Pills?

Millions of women who've been forced to pay out-of-pocket for birth control may now be able to claim it as a covered health insurance cost. CBS News medical correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin reports on the discrimination case brought by two women.

Many women are probably wondering what took so long. Forty years after the advent of "the pill" the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled that prescription contraception must be covered by health insurance and offered by employers.

"The EEOC has concluded that where there is a range of preventive services," says EEOC attorney Ellen Vargyas. "It may well be a violation of the law for a plan to exclude prescription contraceptives."

In other words: employers who offer health plans that include other preventive medicine, such as vaccinations and dental care, are discriminating against women by not preventing babies as well.

The issue of insurance coverage of birth control has been simmering for years, but came to a full boil when the anti impotence drug Viagra hit the market and won immediate widespread coverage. Women noticed. Many said it was outrageous that insurance companies cover such things as Viagra, and they don't cover women's contraception.

But according to health insurance companies, 95% of HMO's do have some kind of contraceptive coverage, and many employers chose not to offer those benefits.

"We're getting into a situation where each of these new items does add cost which ultimately results in somebody losing their coverage," says Sharon Cohen of the Health Insurance Association of America.

Insurers also fear the ruling creates a bad precedent in which everyone will cry discrimination if particular health care needs aren't met.

But if you ask these women, it's a ruling whose time has come.

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