MANDATORY COVERAGE: Assembly Committee Approves ‘Pill Bill’
In a 5-2 vote, California's Senate Insurance Committee passed the Women's Contraceptive Equity Act (AB 1112), which would require health insurers that cover prescription drugs to extend coverage to Food and Drug Administration-approved birth control pills. Sponsored by state Assemblyman Robert Hertzberg (D-Los Angeles), the bill "seeks to narrow the gender gap in health insurance coverage." It contains an exemption for "religious charities" opposed to birth control but "requires insurance companies to fully disclose the exemption to employees and provide a pharmacy voucher to those employees." The bill now goes to Gov. Pete Wilson for consideration (Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California release, 4/1).
Planned Parenthood, Catholics Happy
This is second 'pill' bill Hertzberg has authored this year. Gov. Wilson vetoed the first on February 11 because it did not include an exemption for religious objectors. "The California Catholic Conference and the California Association of Catholic Hospitals have testified that the bill's new and broader exemption ... meets their concerns," Hertzberg said. He said the measure "promises women the equity in coverage they have been waiting for" since the FDA approved the pill as a prescription drug (Hertzberg release, 4/1). Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California CEO Kathy Kneer said, "We are extremely pleased the Senate Insurance Committee passed this measure which goes a long way to address the unacceptable gender gap that exists in health insurance coverage" (PPAC release, 4/1).