House Committee Votes for FEHBP Contraceptive Coverage
The House Appropriations Committee yesterday voted 40-21 against President Bush's proposal to eliminate required contraceptive coverage for federal employees, the Washington Post reports. In his budget blueprint last April, Bush proposed eliminating an existing requirement that forces insurers to cover all FDA-approved prescription contraceptives for employees and dependents enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan. According to the Post, the committee vote "virtually" ensures that the 1.2 million women in the government workforce will still receive the benefit next year. Twelve Republicans joined 28 Democrats in support of an amendment to the FY 2002 Treasury-Postal appropriations bill that would reinstate the requirement to cover contraceptives, with supporters saying that they could "defend" the provision on the House floor (Eilperin, Washington Post, 7/18). Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who sponsored the amendment, said, "In the year 2000, it's hard to believe that anyone could challenge contraception" (Rovner, CongressDaily, 7/17). Supporters of Bush's proposal offered "only a cursory rebuttal," suggesting that providing birth control coverage may have "hidden costs" (Washington Post, 7/18). "I do not believe you can have mandates to expand coverage and not believe you are not adding costs," Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.), the only lawmaker to speak against the amendment, said (CongressDaily, 7/17).