Senate urged to pass Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act

birth control pillsA bill that would require insurance companies to pay for nearly 20 forms of FDA-approved contraception has passed the Assembly, but is languishing in the Senate, where it sits in the Insurance Committee since January 19.

“New Yorkers cannot succeed at home, or on the job, without access to comprehensive reproductive health care,” said Kim Atkins, board chair of Family Planning Advocates of New York. “Family planning services are a common sense investment for our future, access to contraception is a necessity, and enabling workers to fulfill both their family and work obligation is sound public policy.”

The bill (S.6013-a/A.8135-b), known as the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, has 45 sponsors in the Assembly, and 13 sponsors in the Senate.

The bill originated in the Assembly last June, but died in the Ways and Means Committee at the end of session. In one of its first actions of 2016, the Assembly passed the bill on January 25.

Supporters such as Sen. Liz Krueger are hopeful it will get passed in the Senate this year and make a lasting impact. “Ensuring that all New Yorkers, regardless of income, have access to contraceptive options is good for our families and a vital step toward women’s equality, Krueger said.”

Under the proposed law, commercial group health insurance providers would be mandated to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive drugs, devices and products when prescribed by a health care provider. Currently, a lack of contraceptive insurance coverage and high co-payments remain significant barriers to contraceptive access for many New Yorkers, states the bill’s memo.

The Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act’s three key provisions require insurers to:

  • Cover additional contraceptive methods for men and women with no co-pay,
  • Provide coverage for emergency contraception purchased at community pharmacies, and
  • Allow up to 12 months of contraceptives to be dispensed at one time.

Supporters say the legislation is necessary to provide more clear guidance on what the federal Affordable Care Act intended. Political fights and the threat of lawsuits has caused inconsistent implementation of the ACA, so state lawmakers hope this bill would provide universal coverage for all New Yorkers.

In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled in the “Hobby Lobby case” that closely held corporations are exempt from following laws that its owners reject on religious grounds, in this case, providing employees with no-cost access to contraception.

The bill language also notes that insurers can take advantage of confusion about the ACA to limit coverage for the diverse array of contraceptive methods available and, in some cases, can prevent individuals from accessing the method deemed most effective by their medical provider. Additionally, say the bill sponsors, many insurance companies do not typically cover male methods of contraception or else they require high cost-sharing, despite the critical role men play in the prevention of unintended pregnancy.

The bill enjoys support from other elected officials, including Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

“Ensuring comprehensive, cost-free access to birth control is critical to fulfilling the goals of the Affordable Care Act and to upholding every woman’s right to contraception,” Schneiderman said. “The Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act will guarantee these rights and ensure that all New Yorkers have access to the birth control method that will help them stay healthy and effectively plan for their future.”

The bill also has strong support from the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The Senate bill is sponsored by John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, and the Assembly bill is sponsored by Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston.