California Contraceptive Law Appears to be Protected
BERKELEY/LOS ANGELES, CA – Today the White House issued a revised contraceptive coverage policy under the Affordable Care Act to accommodate the concerns of objecting religious groups and protect access to contraception without cost-sharing for women nationwide. The announcement came after a highly publicized debate sparked by the Catholic Bishop lobby reached fever pitch over the past week.
Under the new policy, women working for religious employers with objections to providing contraceptive services will be able to obtain coverage from health plans directly and without co-pays.
“The President's resolve to break down cost barriers for women to access contraception – regardless of where they work – is a positive step for women and families of all faiths across the country. Covering contraception saves money for everyone – including insurance companies – by keeping women healthy and reducing the high costs associated with unintended pregnancy,” said Julie Rabinovitz, President and CEO of the California Family Health Council, a group that promotes access to birth control and high quality family planning services statewide.
Employers in California are already required to provide contraceptive coverage as part of the Women’s Contraceptive Equity Act passed in 1999 and upheld as constitutional by the California Supreme Court in 2004. The California law, AB 39, included a very narrow religious exemption that served as a model for the administration's original rule. As a result of California's contraceptive equity law, large religiously affiliated institutions that hire employees outside of their faith and serve the public, like Catholic Charities, have health plans that cover contraceptives for their employees. Dignity Health, formerly Catholic Healthcare West, began voluntarily covering contraceptives for their 60,000 employees in 1997.
The final policy is anticipated to be a floor and not a ceiling, which would allow California and other states to keep their narrow exemptions intact.
“One in three women voters have struggled to pay for prescription birth control at some point and have used it inconsistently as a result. With today’s decision President Obama is standing by the millions of women from all faiths who use contraception and deserve affordable, high quality family planning services,” added Rabinovitz.
Currently, about half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, costing taxpayers an estimated $11 billion a year. According to a national poll, 84 percent of Americans approve of family planning and see birth control as an important part of preventive health care. Among all women who have had sex, 99 percent have used contraceptives, and more than half of all women between the ages of 18-34 struggle to afford it. Catholics are not far off with fully 98 percent of sexually active Catholics having used modern forms of birth control.