The House and Senate agreed to a provision Friday that would mandate federal employee health care plans to cover five widely-used contraception methods.
The provision was included in budget negotiation deals and will expand contraceptive coverage for approximately 1.2 million women. Conservative House Republicans promised an attempt to repeal the measure next year.
Nita M. Lowey (D-NY), sponsor of the bill, said, “This is a huge victory for American women.” Lowey believes the federal health benefits program “will and should be a model for this country.” L
owey’s provision calls for approximately 300 federal health insurance plans to cover prescription contraceptives just as they do other prescription drugs. Five plans are exempt from the provision based on their religious objection to contraceptive use. Individual doctors are also allowed to refuse contraceptive prescriptions based on their “moral convictions.”
Currently, only 19 percent of federal health care plans cover the five main methods of contraception – the pill, diaphragms, IUDs, Norplant, and Depo-Provera. A full ten percent of plans provide no contraceptive coverage.
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) who strongly supports the provision, revealed that the Pentagon recently estimated that it will spend $50 million on covering prescriptions for Viagra, a treatment for impotency. “Yet, it was a fight right up to the end to cover contraception for women,” Maloney said. “This is a blatant example of discrimination, of an effort to keep women back and down.”
Officials at the Office of Personnel Management expect that the provision will impose minimal, if any, cost increases for health programs and those enrolled in them.