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Post date: May 11 2015

A.G. Schneiderman Proposes Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act

Legislation Seeks to Ensure Women’s Access to Cost-Free Contraception

NEW YORK –Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today introduced “The Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act of 2015” (CCCA), legislation aimed at protecting and enhancing New Yorkers’ access to cost-free contraception under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

The CCCA would codify the ACA’s requirement that contraception be made available to New Yorkers cost-free, and would enhance relevant provisions of the Affordable Care Act in several important ways: First, the bill would statutorily require state-governed health insurance policies to cover all FDA-approved methods of birth control, including emergency contraception. Second, the legislation would prohibit insurance companies from “medical management” review restrictions that can limit or delay contraceptive coverage. Third, the CCCA would cover men’s contraceptive methods and bring their insurance coverage in line with the benefits enjoyed by women, a protection that is not included in the ACA’s coverage requirements. Finally, the bill would allow for the provision of a year’s worth of a contraceptive at a time, which is not included in the provisions of the ACA.

“New Yorkers should not be penalized by their insurance companies for using the birth control method that they and their medical provider agree is most appropriate for them,” said Attorney General 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. The Comprehensive Contraception 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.”

Last week, Attorney General Schneiderman sent letters of inquiry to 11 health insurance companies, requesting information about each company’s cost-sharing practices for contraception. The letter was sent in response to reports of health insurance companies charging New York women co-pays for contraception and/or denying access to certain contraceptive methods, in violation of federal law.

Despite legal reforms enacted in New York State and Congress, both women and men in New York continue to face barriers in accessing contraceptive care.  In 2002, the New York State Legislature passed the Women’s Health and Wellness Act, an important first step toward contraceptive equity that required insurance plans that cover prescriptions to include contraception.  Eight years later, the U.S. Congress passed the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), which includes a contraceptive coverage guarantee as part of a broader requirement for health insurance plans to cover key preventive care services without out-of-pocket costs for patients. However, despite the ACA’s broad contraceptive coverage requirements, Attorney General Schneiderman’s office has received reports that certain health plans have been imposing co-pays as well as denying full coverage of certain contraceptive methods through “medical management” (utilization review). 

NYS Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins (D-Westchester) said, “I support Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's efforts to ensure both women and men in New York are able to address their reproductive health needs under the law. The Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act is a necessary step in protecting our freedom to make our own reproductive health decisions and ensuring access to quality health care."

New York State Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) said, "Attorney General Schneiderman and I have worked together for many years on improving access to contraception, and I am extremely gratified that he is introducing the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act. It is outrageous that in 2015 many women still do not have access to contraception. This is a basic healthcare issue, an essential right, and a vital step toward achieving gender equality by ensuring women can take charge of their own reproductive choices. I look forward to working with the Attorney General and my legislative colleagues to see that this bill becomes law."

“This is a comprehensive piece of legislation that includes many components, including some from the bill (A5178) that I introduced earlier this session,” Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D-88) said. “This legislation will provide those in need with emergency contraception regardless of whether they have a prescription. It will also require insurers to cover sterilization procedures and bring coverage for men’s contraceptive choices in line with those of women. It is a complete and necessary piece of legislation.”

Assemblymember Shelly Mayer (D-Yonkers) said "I strongly support the Attorney General's proposed legislation to ensure the right to contraceptive choice is protected under New York law. This federal right must be made a part of New York's law to guarantee it is real for women in our state."

“I applaud the Attorney General for proposing guaranteed insurance coverage for contraceptive methods, family planning education and counseling.  Women and men must have the information, counseling and access needed to make informed family planning decisions.  Women must not experience limits, delays or denials of their chosen FDA-approved methods particularly emergency contraception.  We look forward to passing this legislation that would grant greater access to affordable contraceptives for both women and men.” said Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright.

Donna Lieberman, Executive Director, New York Civil Liberties Union said, "Contraception is critical to a woman's health and her ability to participate equally in the economic, political and social life of our nation. New York law must ensure that lack of insurance coverage does not act as a barrier to women's ability to access contraception. This legislation takes critical steps toward breaking down these barriers and providing comprehensive contraceptive coverage for all New Yorkers."

Andrea Miller, President, NARAL Pro-Choice New York, said “The Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act is groundbreaking in that it maximizes the potential of the Affordable Care Act in ensuring that all New York residents are able to access the contraception they need without barriers,” said Andrea Miller, President of NARAL Pro-Choice New York. “We applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for making contraceptive access – which is so crucial to a woman’s ability to control her reproductive future – a priority here in New York State.”

Lois Uttley, Director, Raising Women’s Voices-NY, said “Despite the Affordable Care Act’s promise that women will receive contraceptive coverage without co-pays, our research has found that some New York insurers are refusing to cover certain methods of contraception or inappropriately charging cost-sharing. We are delighted that the Attorney General is stepping forward to make sure New York’s women can get the contraception they need without any extra charges.”

“Access to contraception is fundamental to women’s health and their ability to determine the course of their lives, including when or whether to have children,” said Carol Blowers, Interim CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of New York. “Woman’s lives and bodies are unique so there is no “one size fits all” contraceptive method. It is absolutely essential that the full range of modern contraceptives are within reach of every woman in New York State, regardless of income or insurance coverage. Through this legislation, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is safeguarding the promise inherent in the ACA by ensuring that women are able to obtain the care necessary for a healthy New York."

Gretchen Borchelt, Vice President for Health and Reproductive Rights at the National Women’s Law Center said, “The Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act builds on current federal and state law to eliminate the restrictions, delays, and obstacles insurance companies still impose on women seeking birth control. The National Women’s Law Center strongly supports policies like the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act that expand access to birth control and improve the health and economic security of women and their families.”

“The contraception benefits in the Affordable Care Act were a great step forward in broadening access to essential family planning services, and the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act is even better,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We applaud the Attorney General for his leadership and efforts to keep New York ahead of the curve in protecting women’s health and rights, and ensuring New Yorkers are empowered to make their own decisions about their families, futures, and reproductive lives.”

"Contraception is fundamental health care that 99 percent of women will use at some point in their lives. This is why it is imperative that our laws guaranteeing access to birth control are clear and enforceable,” said Sonia Ossorio, president of NOW NY. “Women should not have to fear being denied coverage for the type of birth control that works best for them, and they certainly should be able to avoid the unnecessary burden of time and worry that goes with needing to refill their prescription so often. The Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act will help strengthen women’s rights to contraceptive coverage."

Catherine Lederer-Plaskett, President, WCLA - Choice Matters, said "The New York State Attorney General's Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act is a refreshing change. It removes politics from the equation, making women's contraceptive healthcare the only focus - which is exactly how it should be.”

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