(Bloomberg) — Insurers would be required to increase free access to contraceptives in New York under expanded coverage requirements proposed by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
A bill set to be introduced in Albany Monday by Schneiderman would impose expanded coverage requirements and steeper hurdles for denying benefits or passing along costs to consumers. The measure would require that insurers cover all federally approved birth control methods — including those used by men — and prohibit a review process used by some companies to deny or delay coverage.
The proposal follows reports from health advocacy groups that some insurers may have denied or passed along costs for some forms of birth control such as intrauterine devices (IUDs), hormonal patches and vaginal rings, in violation of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulation implementing federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) preventive services benefits provisions.
The HHS regulation requires most insurers to cover contraceptives for women in the PPACA preventive services package. The PPACA preventive service package provisions require plans to cover services in the package without imposing cost-sharing measures such as copayments. Health plans are allowed to make patients pick up some of the cost of brand-name birth control, if generic versions are available. Birth control methods for men — condoms and vasectomies — aren’t included under the federal requirements.
“New Yorkers should not be penalized by their insurance companies for using the birth control method that they and their medical provider agree is most appropriate for them,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Ensuring comprehensive, cost-free access to birth control is critical to fulfilling the goals of the Affordable Care Act and to upholding every woman’s right to contraception.”
The bill may face resistance in the Republican-controlled state Senate, which has been reluctant to support measures related to PPACA.
In 2012, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo resorted to an executive order to create a health exchange under the federal law after Senate Republicans blocked a bill for almost a year. The Republicans said at the time that allowing the exchange would have condoned the president’s law.
In reports published last month, the Washington-based National Women’s Law Center and Menlo Park, Calif.-based Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation found that some insurers were charging copayments for birth control methods, denying coverage or restricting benefits.
Some may be violating federal rules, according to the report.