Vasectomy patient contests U birth-control coverage

Josh Linehan

With the world’s population estimated to reach 6 billion by 2000, women and men alike have been encouraged to take more responsibility for birth control.
But who pays for the plethora of birth-control options is a different matter altogether.
Daniel Hays, a fourth-year pharmacy graduate student, had a vasectomy because he said his reproductive health was his own responsibility.
Now, instead of dealing with an unwanted pregnancy, he has to deal with a stack of unwanted — and unexpected — medical bills.
Because Hays believed a vasectomy should not be taken lightly, he said he gathered information and assurance from his University-affiliated insurance company before undergoing the procedure, performed at Fairview-University Medical Center.
A few months later, Hays began receiving bills for a procedure he thought he had already paid for with student services fees. The medical bills totaled almost $900.
“I researched the procedure pretty extensively,” Hays said. “But I never would have done it if I knew I would have to pay for it.”
Because he said his motives for undergoing the procedure were similar to those of some woman who use birth control, he was disappointed that University insurance covered many women’s birth-control options but not the option he chose.
“Women have the choice to take birth control into their own hands. Men should have that option, and it should be affordable,” Hays said.
Women’s birth-control methods, including diaphragms, IUDs, Depo-Provera shots and Norplant are all covered by student health insurance.
Gailon Rosen, Boynton Health Service director of operations, said the coverage does not discriminate against males.
“The female equivalent of a vasectomy is tubal ligation,” Rosen said. “Neither is covered by student insurance.”
But Norplants, devices inserted under women’s skin, are covered even though they cost slightly less than a vasectomy, Rosen said.
The difference for the insurer, he explained, isn’t in cost, but procedure.
“Norplant is not considered surgery,” Rosen said. “It is an invasive procedure, but we don’t classify it as surgery.”
Tubal ligation and vasectomies are classified as “elective surgeries,” and therefore not covered by students’ plans, according to Boynton’s insurance department.
But this frustrates Hays, who said he felt punished for making a responsible choice.
“I can say flat out, it wouldn’t be fair of me to bring a child into this world,” Hays said. “How many school shootings have there been in the past two years? I just don’t have the time to raise a child properly.”

Josh Linehan covers science, technology and reproductive health and welcomes comments at [email protected]