Bill calls for insurance-backed birth control

Legislation on its way to the Michigan House floor would require insurance companies to provide prescription coverage for birth control.

The package of nine bills, part of a 15–bill initiative promoted by Planned Parenthood’s Prevention First campaign, was passed by the House Judiciary Committee on Sept. 9.

The package was created to expand access to contraception and improve sex education, said Sarah Scranton, executive director for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Michigan.

“The package was intended to really put forth common sense prevention measures so we could improve women’s health and prevent unintended pregnancies,” she said.

On average, birth control costs between $30 and $70 for both the insured and uninsured depending on the plan, said Liz Ratzloff, president of MSU Students for Choice and a zoology junior.

“Birth control can be as much as $65 to $75 a month, and what college woman can afford that?” she said.

Education freshman Allie Schwall said her mother had to fight with the family’s insurance company to receive birth control coverage, and even after that, the medication cost about $60 a month.

“It should be paid for and available for everyone,” Schwall said.

But state Rep. Bill Caul, R-Mount Pleasant, said requiring insurance companies to cover contraceptives would unnecessarily raise insurance prices for all consumers.

“In this day and age, when we are already having a debate about the rising cost of health care, insurance prices for everyone would come up as a result of (companies) having to provide these particular services to everyone,” he said.

Legislation in the package also would require all pharmacies to fill birth control and emergency contraception prescriptions, require insurance companies to cover yearly Pap tests and set standards for sex education curriculum in Michigan schools.

State Rep. Mark Meadows, D-East Lansing, introduced House Bill 5158, a part of the package that would require crisis pregnancy centers to disclose all information about provided services. He said he strongly supports the package.

“It is a pretty broad-reaching and expansive package,” he said. “(The package) runs the gamut of making sure emergency contraception is offered to people in hospitals when rape is involved to making sure when someone has a contraception prescription, we can assure that it will be filled.”

Some organizations, such as Right to Life of Michigan, oppose certain package requirements because they impose on religious and philosophical commitments, said Ed Rivet, Right to Life of Michigan’s legislative director.

“We don’t think any employer with a philosophical or
religious reason to opt out should be mandated to purchase the birth control option with an insurance plan,” he said.

The package would reduce unintended pregnancies in Michigan and, in turn, reduce the abortion rate, Scranton said.

“That is something everyone, from both sides of the aisle, should be able to agree upon,” she said.

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