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Factcheck.Org Comes To McCain’s Defense On Birth Control

Senator John McCain and birth control issues hogged headlines after a reporter asked something about an alleged unfair dealing by health insurance companies when it comes to female contraceptives and erectile dysfunction drugs. After fact checking the matter, it was discovered that the reporter’s question had no factual basis.

Author:Hajra Shannon
Reviewer:Paula M. Graham
Feb 01, 20230 Shares106 Views
The hot issue between John McCain and birth controlwas fact checked.
After issuing a string of reports debunking many claims in several of the senator’s recent campaign ads, defends McCain against a Planned Parenthood attack ad in its newest analysis. is a non-partisan fact-checking website from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Public Policy.
The ad in question features the now-famous footage of McCain squirming in response to a reporter’s question about the fairness of health insurance plans that cover Viagra prescriptions for men, but not birth control for women.

John McCain Can't Make Up His Mind about Contraception

John McCain and Birth Control Fact Checked

The verdict: the problem doesn’t really exist.
From the analysis:
Planned Parenthoodis running a TV ad showing Senator John McCain painfully groping for an answer to a reporter’s question.
Here was the question the reporter, Maeve Reston of The Los Angeles Times (now a national political reporter for CNN), asked the senator:
It’s unfair that health insurance companies cover Viagra but not birth control. Do you have an opinion on that?- Maeve Reston
McCain had good reason to be flustered.
The premise of the reporter’s question is a myth.
We couldn’t find any data that show a disparity between health insurance companies that cover Viagra and those that cover birth control.
The full range of contraceptives, in fact, are covered by more than 86 percent of private insurance plans written for employers.
A point of clarification: to be fair to Maeve Reston, the footage featured in the ad is edited in a way that makes it appear as though she is taking the position that the alleged disparity is “unfair.”
Contraceptive pills
Contraceptive pills

Fact-Checking The Ad

Anyway, here's what turned up:
The ad implies there is a significant disparity between the number of insurance plans that cover Viagra and those that cover birth control.
But that’s not the case.
A 2004 report by the nonpartisan Guttmacher Institute found that in 2002, 86 percent of the plans that insurance companies typically wrote for employers covered the full range of approved reversible contraceptive methods (birth control pills, hormone injections, implants, IUDs and diaphragms), and only 2 percent covered no methods at all.
The worry that Viagra, but not birth control, is being included in health care plans is out-of-date, according to Adam Sonfield, who co-authored the report.
When Viagra initially became available and insurers began to cover it, Sonfield said:
There was concern that this was the case and that insurance companies really were covering erectile dysfunction drugs but were not covering contraception.- Adam Sonfield
This concern, he says, helped spur efforts to get contraception coverage mandated in 27 states, and contraceptive coverage rates shot up as a result.
Sonfield’s study, which asked insurance companies about employer-sponsored plans, found that coverage of contraceptive methods had tripled from 1993 to 2002.
Sonfield says that the number of plans covering birth control likely has continued to increase over the last six years, though he stresses that U.S. health care is still short of complete coverage.
As for Viagra, independent studies of coverage are sparse, but the ones that exist don’t show that the drug is covered more than birth control.
In 2000, an article in Health Affairs reported that “[o]nly about half of all U.S. health plans reimburse members for at least some Viagra pills.”
A 1999 Washington Post article reported that the drug company Pfizer, which makes Viagra, estimated the coverage rate at 40 percent.
And a 2007 Mercer survey of large employers (500 or more employees) showed that about 30 percent denied coverage of erectile dysfunction drugs, and most of the remaining employers imposed limitations on coverage.
A Pfizer representative had no comment when we requested more up-to-date information.
Blue Viagra pills in blister packs in sets of four
Blue Viagra pills in blister packs in sets of four

Final Thoughts

So, Sen. John McCain gets a pass on this birth control issue.
However, the footage revealed how demonstrated his complete lack of comfort in discussing women’s issues.
You could almost see the wheels turning in his head as he unsuccessfully tried to think of a way to answer the questions in a way that would satisfy his questioner - without also angering those religious conservatives who oppose birth control on principle.
John McCain and birth control issues might still make headlines in the coming days.
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Hajra Shannon

Hajra Shannon

Paula M. Graham

Paula M. Graham

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