CONTRACEPTIVE COVERAGE: Partisan Senate Approves Bill
The state Senate yesterday passed a bill that would require insurers that pay for prescription drugs to cover contraceptives, the Los Angeles Times reports. SB 41, sponsored by state Sen. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo), was approved 23-11 on a near party-line vote, with a lone Republican -- state Sen. Bruce McPherson (Santa Cruz) -- and all of the Senate's Democrats voting for passage. Gov. Gray Davis, who pledged to expand women's access to birth control during his campaign last year, has promised to sign the measure. A companion bill, AB 39, is pending in the state Assembly. Speier said she was "holding conversations" with officials from the Catholic Church to "work out" a compromise over exempting certain religious groups with objections to the use of birth control and their health plans from the measure (Ingram, Los Angeles Times, 4/13). Speier noted, however, that the state's "largest chain of Catholic hospitals ... already provides contraceptive coverage for its employees." She said, "Maybe this issue is really moot now. Is it in the best interest of California if an employer, by his religious beliefs, can dictate how the employees conduct their affairs?" The AP/San Jose Mercury News reports that the Senate defeated an amendment by state Sen. Ray Haynes (R- Riverside) that would have exempted employers with religious affiliations and banned "contraceptive methods that prevent implantation of a fertilized egg," including RU-486 and intrauterine devices (Lawrence, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 4/13). Katherine Kneer, CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said, "We are extremely pleased the state Senate voted in favor of this measure, which promotes responsible choices and begins to narrow a long-standing gender gap that exists in prescription insurance coverage" (PPAC release, 4/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.