Contraception Coverage May Be Required

December 14, 2000 ( - Plan sponsors may need to rethink their current health coverage under a new federal ruling. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled that excluding contraceptives from health coverage when other preventative treatments are covered violates federal law.

While the decision directly affects only two women who complained to the commission, it has implications for millions of others whose health insurance plans exclude birth control pills, diaphragms and other forms of prescription contraceptives, according to Reuters.

The EEOC ruling is the first by a federal agency or court on whether it should be required by law.

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The EEOC said that the exclusion violates the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which requires equal treatment of women “affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions,” in all aspects of employment. The EEOC law also protects women against discrimination because they have the ability to become pregnant, not just because they are already pregnant.

The commission also found that excluding contraceptives also amounts to discrimination based on sex, since these prescriptions are available only for women.

Insurance companies claim to be willing to cover the costs – if employers are willing to pay for it. Congress specified that cost is not a defense in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

– Nevin Adams