Senate Panel Considers Contraceptive Coverage

September 14, 2001 ( -A Senate panel hearing on legislation that would require contraceptives to be covered under private health plans has brought the bill is one step closer to becoming law.

The Equity in Prescription Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage Act would require health plans that cover prescription drugs to include the same level of coverage for prescription contraceptives that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

After failing to become law following its introduction in 1997, the bill was re-introduced this year by Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Harry Reid (D-Nevada). Proponents hope the bill will move forward before the close of 2001.

A number of states have passed their own laws requiring employers to provide contraceptive coverage, but the bill’s advocates take the view that federal legislation is necessary.

For and Against

Advocates of the bill see prescription contraceptives as crucial to women?s health and say the costs for employers will be minimal, arguing that since federal workers’ health plans began covering contraceptives in 1999, there has been no increase in health insurance premiums.

Opponents of the bill, such as the US Chamber of Commerce argued that the legislation would raise employers’ costs by mandating contraceptive coverage.

Picking up Steam

The issue came to the fore in June after a federal ruled that employers could not exclude prescription contraceptives from a woman’s health insurance coverage if they covered other prescription drugs.

The federal judge found that pharmacy chain Bartell Drug Company had discriminated against female employees by not providing birth control as part of its health coverage and ordered Bartell to cover all forms of prescription contraception.

– Camilla Klein          

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