Senate passes Euer bill to protect contraceptive coverage

 

STATE HOUSE – The Senate today passed a bill sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Dawn Euer that would ensure contraception remains covered in Rhode Island, even if the coverage requirements in the Affordable Care Act are overturned.

The bill now heads to the House, where Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket, Central Falls) has introduced companion legislation (2024-H 7255).

“An extreme Supreme Court as shown us that few of our freedoms are as secure as they may have seemed only a few years ago,” said Senator Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown). “By passing this bill, this chamber continues our state’s proactive approach to defending the personal freedom and well-being of Rhode Islanders by ensuring that they will continue to have access to the contraceptive care they need, no matter what happens on the federal level.”

Senator Euer’s bill (2024 S-2088) would require health insurers to continue to offer no-cost contraceptives, regardless of what happens on the federal level. Insurers would be required to cover all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive drugs or, when safe and appropriate, their generic equivalents. Coverage for devices and other products, voluntary sterilization procedures, patient education and counseling on contraception and follow-up services would also be required. Patients could not be charged a deductible or copay for any of these services, with an exception for patients with qualifying high-deductible insurance plans. The bill would also require Medicaid to cover a 12-month supply of contraceptives.

“The Women’s Fund of Rhode Island is grateful to Senator Euer for sponsoring this bill and the Senate for passing it. By providing coverage for all FDA-approved contraception, including over the counter and equivalent therapeutics at no cost for a full year without prescription, this legislation will decrease unintended pregnancies, with better health outcomes for women and their planned children, which ultimately results in better economic outcomes for everyone,” said Kelly Nevins, CEO of the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island.

Prior to 2010, over 1 in 5 women paid out-of-pocket costs for contraceptives, often comprising an estimated 30-44% of their total health care spending, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That year, former President Obama signed the ACA, often called Obamacare, into law. The ACA requires health insurers to provide many preventative services, including contraceptives, at no cost to patients. Since then, most Americans have been able to access free contraception, though some religious employers are exempt from providing their employees this coverage.

According to a report from the federal Office of Health Policy, access to no-cost contraceptives improves a variety of women’s health and economic outcomes, including increased wages, reduced rates of entry into poverty and increased rates of entry into professional school or the labor force.

But the ACA has faced over 2,000 legal challenges over the past 14 years. The U.S. Supreme Court weakened the contraceptive coverage requirements of the law twice, in 2014’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and in 2020’s Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania.

Another case, Braidwood Management Inc. v. Becerra, is currently winding its way through the courts. Last year, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled that some of the ACA’s preventative coverage requirements were unconstitutional. Among other things, the judge struck down coverage requirements for HIV prevention medications as a violation of religious freedom. The judge left the ACA’s contraceptive coverage requirements intact, but the case will likely make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has moved in a more conservative direction since 2020.

 

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