Attorney General James Demands Health Insurance Providers Obey the Law, Protect Women’s Access to Birth Control

Orders Three Insurers to Cover 12-Month Supply
of Birth Control in Accordance with NY State Law

AG James Advises New Yorkers About Their Rights to 12-Month Birth Control Coverage

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today demanded that three health insurance companies immediately provide coverage for 12-month supplies of contraceptives in accordance with New York State law. Under the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act (CCCA), health insurance providers are required to cover 12-month supplies of contraception at one time, yet the Attorney General’s Office found that Aetna, MetroPlus Health, and Oscar Health have refused to provide coverage for 12-month supplies to patients. In letters to these three companies, Attorney General James stressed the importance of adhering to this law especially in the midst of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, as many New Yorkers lose their jobs, health insurance coverage, and need to limit unnecessary trips to pharmacies.

"There's nothing more important than protecting New Yorkers' health care, including reproductive care," said Attorney General James. "With more than one million New Yorkers losing their jobs, and with it their health insurance, it's critically important that women are able to fill their birth control prescriptions for the full duration allowed under the law. Insurance companies must comply with the law and permit women to get up to a year's supply of birth control. During this crisis and beyond, I will continue to fight to protect New Yorkers' health care and their rights."

The Attorney General’s Office received multiple complaints from New Yorkers that these companies refused to provide patients with 12-month supplies when requested and that representatives did not know this was required. The Attorney General’s Office is also reminding other insurers in New York State of their obligations under the CCCA. 

In addition to ensuring access to 12-month supplies, the CCCA, which took effect on January 1, 2020, requires that health plans cover all forms of contraception without deductible, coinsurance, copayment, or any other cost-sharing requirements, ensures access to emergency contraception, and prohibits any restrictions or delays on coverage, such as pre-authorizations.  

Attorney General James encourages anyone who has been denied this coverage by their health insurance plan or pharmacy or who believes they are being wrongfully denied other care to please report it to the Attorney General’s Office Health Care Bureau Helpline by filing a complaint or calling 1-800-428-9071. New Yorkers seeking information about available health plans in New York State should visit the state’s health plan marketplace.

“In this time of unprecedented social and economic uncertainty, it is particularly important that nothing stands in the way of birth control access,” said Jenna Bimbi, Executive Director of the New York Birth Control Access Project. “The CCCA ensures uninterrupted access to contraception, and health care companies that fail to follow its requirements deny New Yorkers their rights and force them to choose between following stay-at-home orders and their reproductive health and autonomy. We applaud Attorney General James for standing up for us and recognizing the critical role that contraception plays in the lives of all New Yorkers.”

"During this crisis it is crucial that all health insurance companies operating in New York State comply with the CCCA,” said State Senator Julia Salazar. “Reproductive health care is a right of all people, and anyone who needs it must have access to affordable contraception. It is a matter of public health and safety that every insurance plan cover a 12-month supply of birth control to patients who are prescribed it and I thank Attorney General James for her leadership in protecting this right.”

"The laws we pass are only as strong as their powers of enforcement and we count on firm action such as this to gain compliance. The Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act codified existing Federal Law requiring all 18 types of approved contraception are available and covered by insurance policies without additional fees,” said Assemblymember Kevin Cahill. “The law came about, unfortunately, because some insurers took advantage of the lack of clarity in federal law and limited the diverse array of family planning coverage. It has come to our attention that even with this strong statement by the legislature, non-compliance continues and it is again necessary to demand adherence for all New Yorkers. Attorney General Letitia James takes her role to enforce our laws very seriously. She is making clear our commitment to protect reproductive rights of all New Yorkers and we are grateful for that.”

Today’s action is just the latest in a long list of measures Attorney General James has taken to protect women’s reproductive freedom since taking office. Last week, Attorney General James led a multistate coalition in filing an amicus brief — in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit supporting the plaintiffs in Southwind Women’s Center LLC v. Stitt — as they fight to preserve access to reproductive health care for women across the State of Oklahoma and work to stop the state from banning almost all abortions in the state, using the COVID-19 public health crisis as an excuse.

Also, last week, Attorney General James filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court — in Donald Trump et al. v. Pennsylvania — supporting a lawsuit defending the contraceptive coverage and counseling requirement mandated as part of the Affordable Care Act, which has benefited more than 62 million women across the country.

Earlier this month, Attorney General James co-led a coalition of attorneys general in calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to delay implementation of a final rule that would make it more difficult for women in New York and across the nation to access abortion services under the Affordable Care Act, arguing that the rule jeopardizes health coverage of all consumers confused by its billing practice, as the nation battles COVID-19. The letter follows up on a lawsuit led by Attorney General James in January, and a motion for summary judgement, filed in late March, asking the federal courts to immediately rule on the lawsuit.

Even earlier in April, Attorney General James led a multistate coalition of attorneys general from around the nation in filing an amicus brief supporting the plaintiffs in Planned Parenthood v. Abbott, after the State of Texas issued a directive banning nearly all abortion services in the state, using the coronavirus as an excuse.

In late March, Attorney General James sent a letter to both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requesting that the Trump Administration waive or utilize its discretion not to enforce its Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) designation, which dictates and subsequently impedes women’s access to the medical-abortion prescription drug known as Mifepristone. The attorneys general called on the Trump Administration to ensure that women across the country can more easily access this critical health care service while the pandemic leaves many women unable to seek in-person care.

Last month — at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic — Attorney General James called on the federal government and states across the country to ensure women’s access to safe, legal abortions are not jeopardized or curtailed as a result of the spread of COVID-19.

In January, Attorney General James filed an amicus brief, in Reproductive Health Services v. Planned Parenthood of St. Louis, challenging the constitutionality of several recently enacted abortion bans in the State of Missouri. 

Also in January, Attorney General James secured a victory for women in Rochester seeking to have an abortion without being harassed, threatened, or blocked before entering a clinic when a district court judge dismissed a lawsuit by anti-abortion activists seeking to bypass a 15-foot “buffer zone” outside a local Planned Parenthood facility.

Even earlier in January, Attorney General James filed a multistate amicus brief in support of a lawsuit that seeks to protect a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion care without the burdensome restrictions imposed by Arkansas laws. The brief — filed in support of the plaintiffs in Little Rock Family Planning Services v. Leslie Rutledge, now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit — supports the last surgical abortion clinic in Arkansas as it challenges four state laws that would restrict the ability for women in Arkansas to access abortions by banning abortions after 18 weeks and otherwise restricting women’s access to reproductive care.

In December 2019, Attorney General James filed an amicus brief defending the right to maintain full and equal access to birth control guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act for tens of thousands of women nationwide.

Also, in December 2019, Attorney General James led a multistate amicus brief in support of a challenge by petitioners in the case June Medical Services v. Gee — now pending in the U.S. Supreme Court — challenging a Louisiana law that requires abortion providers to maintain admitting privileges at a local hospital.

In October 2019, Attorney General James filed a multistate amicus brief in support of a lawsuit filed by the Jackson Women’s Health Organization against the State of Mississippi, challenging a law that would prohibit abortions after as early as six weeks of pregnancy.

In September 2019, Attorney General James led a multistate amicus brief in support of a challenge filed by Kentucky clinics and physicians, challenging a Kentucky law that would ban physicians from providing second-trimester abortion services using the most common and safest procedure available for women after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

In August 2019, Attorney General James filed a multistate amicus brief in support of a lawsuit filed by the Whole Woman’s Health Alliance against the State of Indiana after the state denied the clinics application for a license to open an abortion clinic that would provide medical abortions in South Bend.

In March 2019, Attorney General James co-led a coalition of 21 states in a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s regulations that threaten essential services provided under federal Title X funding. The rule — also known as the “gag rule” — places an unlawful and unethical restriction on health care providers’ ability to fully inform patients of the reproductive health services available to them by disallowing referrals for abortions and restricting counseling related to abortions. Another provision would require those who perform abortions to physically segregate their services — an expensive and potentially impossible requirement.

Finally, Attorney General James is litigating the appeal in People ex rel. James v. Griepp to ensure that women who enter the Choices Women’s Medical Center in Jamaica, Queens are not harassed, obstructed, or threatened by protestors.