SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA – Recognizing that birth control plays an essential role in the health and well being of individuals and their families, Senator Holly J. Mitchell [D-26] of Los Angeles has introduced SB 1053 – the Contraceptive Coverage Equity Act.
Building on current state and federal law, this bill seeks to improve access to the full range of FDA-approved birth control methods by assuring that all Californians with a health insurance plan can obtain contraception without restrictions, delays, or out of pocket costs. The bill is co-sponsored by Essential Access Health and the National Health Law Program.
The Women's Health Amendment in the federal health reform law (the Affordable Care Act), requires most health insurance carriers to cover the full range of FDA-approved birth control methods and voluntary sterilization services, without any out-of-pocket costs for female enrollees and dependents. While this requirement was a significant step forward, related federal regulations allowed for "reasonable medical management techniques" to be applied in the context of contraceptive coverage, but did not include a definition of the term. This lack of clarity has led to inadequate and inconsistent implementation of the contraceptive coverage provision. The result is women across the nation and state being denied the birth control method of their choice or having to wait or pay out of pocket for the method prescribed by their health care provider.
"A woman's choice - in consultation with her health care provider - should determine her method of contraception," said Senator Mitchell. "Medical management that creates barriers to particular methods deprives women of their reproductive freedom and increases the risk of unintended pregnancy."
In addition, the Affordable Care Act's coverage requirement fails to include male methods of contraception. This exclusion allows carriers to deny coverage of male birth control like vasectomy services, forcing men to continue paying out of pocket to share in the responsibility for preventing unintended pregnancy. Even when insurance plans provider coverage for the procedure, the remaining co-pay is still a significant barrier to access for many men.
"With SB 1053, Californians will have greater access to the birth control method that works best for them so they can more effectively plan their families and their futures. SB 1053 can continue California's leadership in passing common sense legislation to help both women and men prevent unintended pregnancies," said Julie Rabinovitz, President and CEO of Essential Access Health.
As health reform implementation moves forward, now is the time to build upon the progress made at the state and federal levels to ensure that all Californians with health insurance – through Covered California, private or employer based coverage, or Medi-Cal Managed Care – have contraceptive coverage that is comprehensive, fair, and consistent.
"SB 1053 would bring equity to this arena by making coverage accessible regardless of gender," said Susan Berke Fogel, Director of Reproductive Health at the National Health Law Program. "That's good medicine and good policy."
SB 1053 will be heard in the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday April 30, 2014.
Learn more about Essential Access Health at www.essentialaccess.org.
Learn more about the National Health Law Program at www.healthlaw.org.