The vasectomy rate in the United States is half that of Canada and the U.K., but the male birth control method could become more popular if health insurance companies were required to cover them.
According to the Brookings Institution, sterilization is the second-most common form of birth control in the U.S. Still, despite male sterilization being a cheaper, safer and more effective option than female sterilization, it’s still an unpopular option in the U.S.
Among American couples, females go under the knife to be sterilized at twice the rate of men. Brookings says just 1 percent of black women, 3 percent of Hispanic women and 8 percent of white women rely on their partner’s vasectomy for contraception.
That’s the exact opposite of what’s happening in other countries. For example, vasectomy is twice as common as female sterilization in Canada and the UK. The male sterilization rates in those countries are actually double that of the U.S. According to Brookings:
If the U.S. rates were the same as Canada’s there would be about 4 million more couples relying on a vasectomy for contraception rather than female sterilization.
So why aren’t more American men getting snipped? At least part of it has to do with money.
According to Brookings, the Affordable Care Act mandates coverage for 18 forms of female contraception, including sterilization, but it does not mandate coverage for a vasectomy.
It’s safe to assume that some people are reluctant to schedule an elective surgery like a vasectomy knowing they’ll have to pay the entire bill.
But that could change. Adam Sonfield of the Guttmacher Institute tells Brookings that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force can include vasectomy on a list of approved preventive services, which would eventually lead to coverage under the ACA.
Still, there is no guarantee that such a move would increase the number of vasectomies, Brookings says.
“Clearly this is an area where culture counts for at least as much as policy,” Brookings notes.
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