Today Governor Larry Hogan signed into law The Maryland Contraceptive Equity Act, granting that state the most expansive insurance coverage for birth control in the country. The new law eliminates most co-pays and all prescriptions for birth control. Going well beyond the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, Maryland’s law requires insurance companies to cover over-the-counter emergency contraceptives at no cost, including morning-after pills. The law also makes Maryland the first state to prohibit out-of-pocket costs for men who have vasectomies.
Delegate Ariana Kelly, one of the bill’s sponsors, commented on the need for such legislation:
‘Family planning is essential for women’s rights and cost is a factor in family planning. This legislation is going to help eliminate barriers and reduce costs for women and for men.’
Kelly went on to call the bill the most important piece of birth control legislation since 1998, when Maryland first required insurance companies to cover birth control, saying it closes “gaps” left by the Affordable Care Act.
Karen Nelson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Maryland has also praised the bill:
‘While it may seem as if most of the country is trying to take away women’s rights, the State of Maryland and Planned Parenthood of Maryland worked together to push reproductive rights forward.’
According to a Planned Parenthood press release, the new law will ensure that people have access to the birth control that works best for them. It will also:
- Prohibit most copayments for contraception;
- Allow for women to get 6-months of birth control at a time because health insurers and Medicaid will be required to pay for it;
- Eliminate preauthorization requirements for the most effective types of birth control, long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), which includes IUDs;
- Provide contraception equity for men by broadening coverage of vasectomies without cost-sharing requirements;
- Expand access to over-the-counter contraceptive medications by requiring coverage without a prescription.
Though the bill was met with resistance from both insurers and Republicans, it passed with bipartisan support and was signed into law by the state’s Republican governor, making this sweeping reform truly historic. In order to allow for insurers to prepare for the transition, the law won’t go into effect until 2018 but hopefully will provide a model for other states long before that.
Featured Image via Bruce Blaus licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International.