REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH: Assembly Passes Legislation to Inform Women of Choices
The state Assembly last week approved AB 525, which would require health plans, disability insurers and Medi-Cal managed care plans to provide consumers with "specific information and disclosures" related to reproductive health services. Under the bill introduced by Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), the Department of Managed Care would develop a standardized statement informing consumers about reproductive health care issues they might consider before enrolling in a health plan, including contraceptives, infertility treatment, sterilization and abortion. The statement must be placed at the beginning of the printed provider directories of each health plan and disability insurer, as well as in a "conspicuous place" on disclosure forms and promotional material, alerting consumers to hospitals' restrictions and assisting them with obtaining access to care (AB 525 text, 1/26). Kuehl initiated AB 525 to alert women to situations where not-for-profit hospitals have been acquired by religiously affiliated entities and subsequently limit reproductive services, including contraception, sterilization, fertility treatments and abortion. The measure, which cleared the Assembly in a 52-21 vote, is the first in the country to address such a situation. Susan Berke Fogel, legal director of the California Women's Law Center, which sponsored the legislation, said, "Most consumers are not aware that many hospitals and other health care providers do not provide a full range of reproductive health services. In fact, women often do not find out that they cannot access the reproductive health services they need until long after they have made their provider and hospital choices. AB 525 guarantees that women can get the information they need before they choose a plan or provider." Fogel added, "The goal of this legislation is to ensure that consumers are aware of any restrictions on their access to health care before they need those services and before it is too late" (California Women's Law Center release, 1/31).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.