BOSTON (AP) — Health insurers and advocates for women’s reproductive rights agreed Tuesday on legislation that seeks to protect birth control coverage in Massachusetts regardless of future action by Congress or President Donald Trump’s administration.
The compromise unveiled at the Statehouse would generally require continued insurance coverage, without co-payments, of contraceptives that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Insurers would be allowed under the bill to require co-payments for brand-name versions of birth control if an equivalent generic version is also available and the patient’s doctor did not specify the brand name option for medical reasons.
“Unfortunately, efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and limit access to contraceptives have created unnecessary uncertainty for millions of Massachusetts women,” said Lora Pellegrini, president and chief executive of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, which represents 17 private insurers.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the state’s largest insurer, also backed the compromise bill that which appears on track for a vote in the Democratic-controlled Legislature later this year.
Since contraception became a covered preventive health benefit under the Obama-era federal health law, studies have shown a significant decline in out-of-pocket costs for birth control both nationally and in Massachusetts, according to Planned Parenthood and other advocates.
A leaked, draft regulation that surfaced earlier this year pointed to a plan by the Trump administration to allow employers to opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women for religious and moral reasons.
Such a move could leave a woman’s “most personal decision, when and if to have a child, in the hands of her boss,” said Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, president of Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts.
While both federal and state law includes an exemption for churches, the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts called the proposed legislation “absolutist” and an attack on the “consciences and pocketbooks of Catholics” and others in the state.
“The religious exemption, which is narrow and nominal, is mere tokenism,” said C.J. Doyle, the group’s executive director, in a statement. “A significant proportion of Catholic institutions in the state will be required to continue, at an expanded level, involuntary financial support for practices their religion condemns as abhorrent.”
The bill would extend birth control coverage in Massachusetts beyond current ACA mandates to include coverage for over-the-counter emergency contraceptives without a doctor’s prescription. It would also allow pharmacists to dispense a 12-month supply of contraceptives to women once they complete an initial three-month prescription.