Mitchell bill, one of few to expand contraceptive rights, heads to Governor

August 22, 2014

Sacramento – As efforts to restrict access to birth control have recently won ground across the nation, both through the courts and state legislatures, Senator Holly J. Mitchell [D-26] of Los Angeles has won the votes in California’s Legislature to send a bill to continue California’s long trend of expanding access to birth control to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown, who has until September 30 to sign it into law or veto it.

SB 1053 – the Contraceptive Coverage Equity Act – builds on current state and federal law in trying to improve access to the full range of FDA-approved birth control methods by assuring that all Californians with a health insurance plan may obtain contraception without restrictions, delays or out of pocket costs. Co-sponsored by California Family Health Council and National Health Law Program, the bill has become rallying legislation for many health care and women’s rights advocates disheartened by recent losses on contraceptive coverage rights in other states.

"When a health care professional advises a woman of the optimal treatment for her medical or family planning needs, no health plan should stand between her and that treatment, nor make it harder for her to get,” said Senator Mitchell, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Women and Inequality.  “Federal law already mandates that employers which provide health care coverage include contraception. This law would protect women and families from ‘medical management’ decisions that erect barriers to the care a patient wants and needs.”

The Women’s Health Amendment in the federal Affordable Care Act requires most health insurance carriers to cover the full range of FDA-approved birth control methods and voluntary sterilization services, without any out-of-pocket costs for female enrollees. However, federal regulation allows contraception coverage to be implemented subject to “reasonable medical management techniques,” but that term was not defined. This bill would eliminate the resulting lack of clarity, which has led to inconsistent implementation of access to contraception.  Right now, women across the nation and state may be denied the birth control method of their choice or have to wait or pay out of pocket for the method prescribed by their health care provider.

Now is the time to build upon the progress made in extending health care to ensure that all Californians with health insurance – through Covered California, private or employer based coverage or Medi-Cal Managed Care – have contraceptive coverage that is comprehensive and fair.