Employer Must Cover Birth Control

June 13, 2001 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A federal judge has ruled that Seattle-based drugstore chain Bartell Drug must include contraceptives for women in its employee health insurance plan -- the first federal setback to employers who don't cover birth control.

U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik issued a summary judgment for Jennifer Erickson, noting that “although the plan covers almost all drugs and devices used by men, the exclusion of prescription contraceptives creates a gaping hole in the coverage offered to female employees, leaving a fundamental and immediate health care need uncovered.”

Erickson, a 27-year-old pharmacist for the Bartell chain, claimed the policy violated the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Defendants claimed that “the state of not being pregnant was not covered by that law.”

Pregnant Protections

Last December, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission declared that two employers violated the 1978 pregnancy discrimination law by failing to cover contraceptives while including other preventive treatments in health insurance plans. The EEOC said the law protects women against discrimination because they have the ability to become pregnant, not just because they are already pregnant.

In 1998 Congress required that health plans for federal employees cover prescription contraceptives, according to the Associated Press.

Bartell, founded in 1890, had 48 stores in the Seattle area as of last year and is the oldest family-owned drugstore chain in the nation.

– Nevin Adams                            editors@plansponsor.com