Ground-breaking legislation continues California’s leadership in expanding access to birth control and decreasing risk for unintended pregnancy
August 22, 2014 - SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA – Senate Bill (SB) 1053 – the Contraceptive Coverage Equity Act, a ground-breaking piece of legislation to expand access to the full range of FDA approved methods of birth control without restrictions or co-pays, cleared the California legislature yesterday. SB 1053 now moves to the Governor’s desk for his signature. The measure was introduced by Senator Holly J. Mitchell (D-26) of Los Angeles and co-sponsored by Essential Access Health and the National Health Education Law Program.
The Women’s Health Amendment in the federal health reform law (the Affordable Care Act) required 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 which took effect in August of 2012. The result is that women across the nation and state are being denied the birth control method of their choice or face restrictions that maintain barriers to access like step therapy, prior authorization or still having to pay out-of-pocket for the method prescribed by their health care provider despite the federal contraceptive coverage requirement.
SB 1053 seeks to address these issues by ensuring that California women with a public or private health plan have access to the birth control method that is right for them without restrictions or cost-sharing. According to a report recently released by the Guttmacher Institute, removing cost as a barrier can significantly improve the effectiveness of contraceptive use by allowing women to pick the method that is best suited for their particular needs and circumstances – especially when it comes to highly effective methods like the IUD and implant.
“A woman’s method of birth control should be her choice - in consultation with her health care provider. Her health plan should have no say in this private medical decision,” said Senator Mitchell. “Medical management techniques that create barriers to particular methods deprive women of their reproductive freedom, increase their risk of unintended pregnancy and disproportionately impact low-income women. That’s why the Governor should sign this bill into law when it reaches his desk,” the Senator added.
“Despite the fact that over half of all pregnancies are unintended, we continue to see an alarming national trend of restricting access to women’s health care. In the aftermath of the disappointing Hobby Lobby decision, California once again has the opportunity to lead the nation with a legislative model to help women more effectively plan their families and futures with fair and consistent contraceptive coverage,” said Julie Rabinovitz, President and CEO of Essential Access Health. “As a long-time supporter of women’s health and rights, we urge Governor Brown to sign SB 1053 into law without delay and continue our state’s long history of expanding access to quality reproductive health care for all,” added Rabinovitz.
It is estimated that the measure will save $217 million thanks in large part to the cost effectiveness of family planning. Every $1 invested in family planning saves at least $4 in direct medical care.