PILL BILL: Bipartisan Coalition Reintroduces Legislation
The same group of lawmakers who "successfully fought to provide women federal employees with insurance coverage for contraceptives," yesterday introduced legislation to extend coverage to all women whose insurance plans pay for prescription drugs, Reuters/Boston Globe reports (6/11). At a Capitol Hill news conference, Sens. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), along with Reps. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Jim Greenwood (R-PA), announced the reintroduction of the Equity in Prescription Insurance Contraceptive Coverage Act, which would require insurers to cover prescription contraceptives if they cover other prescription drugs. Reid said, "The time has come in this country to repair the inequities of our health care system. It's sad that the health care industry has done such a poor job of responding to women's health care needs. Women already pay 68% more in out-of-pocket health care costs than men." Noting his sponsorship last year of a bill mandating the coverage for federal employees, he said, "I want equal prescription coverage for all women. With more than 3 million unintended pregnancies every year and almost half of those ending in abortion, we need to make prescription contraceptives affordable for any woman who wants them" (Reid release, 6/10). Snowe added, "The way I see it, if the principles of our EPICC legislation are good enough for Congress, they should be good enough for the American people." She pointed out that six states currently have such a law on the books (Snowe release, 6/10). The bill would amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, which governs self-funded health plans, and the Public Health Service Act, which governs private health plans in group and individual markets. It also prohibits an insurer from refusing to cover a woman who may need contraception, or penalizing a doctor who prescribes it (Senate fact sheet).
The Time is Now, Say Sponsors
Lowey said, "Coverage for the full range of contraceptive methods is long overdue. And since we know that close to half of all unplanned pregnancies end in abortion, it is clear that the best way to reduce the number of abortions in this country -- a goal we all share -- is to prevent unintended pregnancies. Better access to contraception does that" (Lowey release, 6/10). Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Gloria Feldt noted that an October PPFA poll found that almost 75% of Americans support the terms of the legislation, including more than 80% of Democrats and pro-choicers, and more than 55% of Republicans and pro-lifers. She said, "There are no good reasons to oppose EPICC -- only political excuses. We can no longer afford a style of politics that creates abortion battles over almost every piece of legislation, while refusing votes on bills that would help women prevent the need for abortion in the first place." Also appearing at the conference were actresses Kathleen Turner and Sally Kellerman and model Beverly Peele (PPFA release, 6/8). The bill currently has 30 Senate co-sponsors and is supported by 33 organizations (fact sheet).
Also yesterday, sixty women's groups asked the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission "to instruct employers that excluding birth control pills and other contraceptives from their health plans amounts to sex discrimination." Marcia Greenberger, co- president of the National Women's Law Center, said, "The time has come to make sure women are no longer cheated with the insurance coverage they get." The AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that while "[s]uch a policy would not be legally binding, it could influence employers and would strengthen a lawsuit on the subject should one be filed" (6/11).