On Tuesday, Maryland signed a bill that will reportedly put the state at the forefront of the fight to make birth control more accessible for a lot of women and men. An expansion of the Obamacare Act, Maryland's new Contraceptive Equity Act would require insurance companies to cover birth control at no out-of-pocket expense.
President Obama's Affordable Care Act already reduced the cost for women who were seeking birth control in many cases, but with the Contraceptive Equity Act, Maryland will be providing for the men as well. Indeed, it goes even further, and the Maryland bill for Contraceptive Equity means that it will be the first state to make insurance companies even cover for over-the-counter emergency contraceptives, such as any of the morning-after pills, at no cost. They will also mandate coverage for men who seek to have vasectomies at no out-of-pocket cost.The Contraceptive Equity Act passed both the state Senate and General Assembly earlier in the spring and was signed into law by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday. Advocates who pushed for the bill through the General Assembly have said that Maryland is the first state to pass such a comprehensive approach to Planned Parenthood.
In fact, Karen Nelson, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Maryland, was quoted as saying, "Maryland is on the forefront across the board with this act."
The blog known as Reason.com has outlined that the Maryland bill will now mean that insurance companies will have to cover every contraceptive option that is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, must cover it even without a prescription -- which is where the emergency contraception and vasectomies would come in -- and that these must all be covered as long as they have a health insurance plan from a company in Maryland.
The Contraceptive Equity Act will only apply to insurance companies that are regulated by the state of Maryland -- Marylanders who have insurance plans issued by other states will not have the same benefits.
The bill also outlines other provisions that prohibit the preauthorization requirements for long-acting contraceptives like IUDs. The law will allow women to receive up to six months' worth of birth control pills at one time. Del. Ariana B. Kelly, the Montgomery County Democrat who helped to shepherd the bill through the legislature, has said that the act is bound to make a "huge difference in people's lives."However, there will be a bit of a wait, as the Baltimore Sun writes that the Maryland bill will not go into effect as a law until January 1, 2018. Nonetheless, with the passing of the bill, Maryland can now claim that it has one of the most comprehensive birth control laws in the nation. The delay in the enactment of the Contraceptive Equity Act is to ensure that the Maryland bill gives a sufficient amount of time to insurers so that they can prepare for the 2017 open-enrollment season.
The Maryland bill was designated as one of the top-priority bills by the Democratic leaders. Over half of the state's lawmakers actually co-sponsored the bill, but it was opposed by some Republicans.
Planned Parenthood's Karen Nelson also called the implementing of the Contraceptive Equity Act as a bold step by Maryland, one that makes it easier and cheaper for people in the state to access birth control.
"When so many states and so many pockets of the country are trying to take away reproductive health care and take away rights of women, Maryland is saying, 'We are going to provide more health care coverage and more access to birth control.'"
[Image via Vinit Deekhanu888/Shutterstock]