BOSTON — The Massachusetts House and Senate passed a bill guaranteeing women’s access to birth control without co-pays, sending it to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk.
Baker has indicated that he is likely to sign the bill.
“The Baker-Polito Administration fully supports access to women’s health and family planning services, is supportive of the concepts in this legislation and will carefully review the Access bill in the coming days,” said Baker spokeswoman Lizzy Guyton.
The bill, H.4009, referred to as the ACCESS Act, would provide women with access to birth control without a co-pay, even if that provision of the Affordable Care Act is repealed.
Sen. Jamie Eldridge, Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on Financial Services, said that in testimony before his committee, women highlighted the importance of having options for birth control. He noted the importance of birth control in allowing women to plan pregnancies and giving them more economic freedom.
Eldridge said the bill ensures that women continue to have the right to free birth control, without the infringement of insurance companies. “Personal health care decisions should be made only between a woman and her doctor,” Eldridge said.
The bill is similar to the Affordable Care Act in that it requires insurers to cover at least one version of every type of FDA-approved birth control — so for example, an insurer can charge a co-pay for a brand-name drug if there is a generic equivalent that has no co-pay. If a patient’s doctor specifies that the patient must get a particular type of birth control, the insurer would have to cover that without a co-pay. This includes pills, devices, emergency contraception and female sterilization procedures.
One way in which the bill goes further than the Affordable Care Act is it requires insurers to let women get a 12-month supply of prescription birth control pills after a three-month trial period. Currently, insurers often cover only one or three months at a time.
The goal of the bill is to protect women’s access to health care coverage in Massachusetts in the face of federal uncertainty over health care policy.
“Despite regressive rollbacks in Washington by Congress and the Trump Administration, the Massachusetts Legislature knows the difference between political platitudes and actually helping people,” Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler, D-Worcester, said in a statement. “I hope this can serve as a model to the country.”
The final bill was a compromise between insurers and reproductive health advocates and was supported by both groups.
A report by the Center for Health Information and Analysis found that mandating birth control coverage would add between 7 cents and 20 cents to monthly health insurance premiums and cost the health care system between $1.9 million and $5.7 million annually.
The Massachusetts bill includes a religious exemption for churches. It does not include a broader moral exemption that President Donald Trump’s administration is considering nationally, which would allow any employer with a religious or moral objection to birth control to deny contraceptive coverage to employees.
The Massachusetts House passed the bill last week, 140-16.
It went back and forth between the House and the Senate due to technical changes. The Senate passed the bill unanimously by a 27-0 vote on Tuesday.
Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, president of the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, said in a statement that birth control “is basic preventive health care that helps women stay healthy and improves the wellbeing of children and families.”
“At a time when women’s health and health care access are in the crosshairs of D.C. politicians, Massachusetts can lead the charge against these politically motivated attacks by safeguarding and improving health care access,” Childs-Roshak said. “The ACCESS bill is widely supported commonsense legislation that will ensure women can access the health care they need without costly barriers or delays.”
Click here to be redirected to the story on www.MassLive.com.