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American Academy of Pediatrics Disappointed in Supreme Court Decision Limiting Access to Preventive Health Services for Employees and Their Families

6/30/2014 Decision could allow employers to deny coverage of other essential medical services for children, women and families

Washington, DC—The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is disappointed in today's 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that opens the door to allow for-profit companies to opt out of offering contraceptives to their employees and their families. The decision could also lead to other businesses deciding not to offer certain kinds of doctor-recommended health services due to personal objection, such as immunizations or other evidence-based preventive services. In an amicus "friend of the court" brief filed earlier this year, the AAP and other leading medical organizations argued for the Court to rule in favor of upholding the Affordable Care Act's requirement to offer contraception products to all employees and their families at no cost.

"The core of pediatrics is prevention. For pediatricians, the science is clear: contraception is a safe, effective tool to prevent unintended pregnancy in young women of any reproductive age. Today, we are disappointed that justice did not side with science," said AAP President James M. Perrin, MD, FAAP. "Pediatricians and other physicians deliver science-based care aimed at improving the health of children. Today's decision could encourage employers to overrule pediatricians, potentially in ways that will severely harm our young patients."

If employers are able to opt out of providing any medical service they object to on religious or personal grounds, including vaccines for employees and their children, serious health consequences could result. Already in the United States, measles outbreaks have occurred in California, Connecticut, Hawaii and New York, despite long-standing solid evidence about the safety and importance of vaccination against childhood diseases.  A recent study shows that the childhood immunization schedule will prevent 42,000 early deaths and 20 million cases of disease, with a savings of $13.5 billion in direct costs and $68.8 billion in total societal costs in over the lifetime of a cohort of children born in a single year.

"Today's decision is especially troubling for low-income women and families," said Dr. Perrin. "Allowing employers to exclude all or certain contraception methods from their employees' insurance coverage could make appropriate contraceptives financially out of reach for many women. The nation's pediatricians will work with Congress and the Administration to protect the evidence-based preventive services children and families need."

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 62,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org or follow @AmerAcadPeds on Twitter.