TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner requiring health insurance coverage for contraceptives to include prescriptions for 12 months cleared the full Senate today.
The bill (S-659) would require health insurers that are currently required to cover prescription female contraceptives to provide that coverage for the dispensing of contraceptives for up to 12 months.
Under the bill, the coverage provided would include dispensing contraceptives for a three-month period for the first dispensing of the contraceptive; and a twelve-month period for any subsequent dispensing of the same contraceptive, regardless of whether coverage under that policy or contract was in effect at the time of the first dispensing.
“The purpose of this bill is to increase access to birth control and by providing this 12-month supply we will ensure that women can plan long-term rather than for a few months at a time. Women today are often busy with work and managing child care, which makes picking up a monthly prescription impractical,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “Women should have timely access to contraception in order to protect their health, plan their families and their future and this is a bill that will help with that effort.”
Currently, many health insurance companies limit their coverage, without cost-sharing, of birth control to a one- or three-month supply. This can lead to unwanted gaps in birth control use and an increased incidence of unintended pregnancies. Inadequate supplies of birth control are of particular concern for low- and middle-income women who may have unpredictable work hours, difficulty accessing transportation, or other barriers preventing them from getting to a pharmacy.
According to a study from the University of California San Francisco, for women who received a full year’s worth of pills at one time, the odds of pregnancy decreased by 30 percent compared to women who received either one or three months of pills at a time. Both Oregon and the District of Columbia have recently passed 12-month dispensing laws. New York has added a similar measure to its women’s health/contraceptive bill package, and California and Washington State are considering similar measures.
According to Guttmacher Institute, unintended pregnancy rates are highest among poor and low-income women, women aged 18–24. Approximately half of unintended pregnancies are among women who were not using contraception at the time they became pregnant; the other half are among women who became pregnant despite reported use of contraception.
S-659 was approved by the Senate 25-8 and cleared the Assembly 50-22-4 in October. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk.