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State Lawmakers Mobilize To Protect Contraceptive Access After Hobby Lobby

State Lawmakers Mobilize To Protect Contraceptive Access After Hobby Lobby

August 8, 2014 — State lawmakers are working to protect women's access to contraception in response to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, which allows some for-profit companies to exclude contraceptive coverage from their employer-sponsored health plans based on their owners' religious objections, Politico Pro reports.

Gretchen Borchelt, director of state reproductive health policy at the National Women's Law Center, said, "There's been a lot of buzz in the states since the [Hobby Lobby] decision because people are so outraged by it, and they want to make sure that women in their state aren't left unprotected."

According to Politico Pro, 28 states already require employer-sponsored health plans that include prescription drug coverage to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives, although not all of those states address self-insured employers.

While several state lawmakers have proposed bills or taken other steps to protect contraceptive access, supporters of the Hobby Lobby decision also could mobilize to try to broaden its effects and undermine state laws, according to Politico Pro. Although the high court's decision was based on a federal law and does not affect state laws on contraceptive coverage, the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance recently announced that it would no longer enforce the state's contraceptive coverage law for employers with religious objections as a result of the Hobby Lobby ruling.

State Initiatives

Lawmakers in Minnesota last week said they will push legislation that would require employers whose plans offer prescription drug coverage to cover contraceptives without cost sharing. According to Politico Pro, the Minnesota bill and a similar measure in Ohio also would bar self-insured employers from discriminating in employment terms, conditions and benefits -- including health coverage -- based on workers' reproductive health decisions.

In New York, the state attorney general and a leading Democrat in the state Senate have proposed a bill that would require employers to tell prospective workers about their contraception coverage policies and notify current employees at least 90 days before making any changes to those policies.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (D), who is running for governor, said she would establish a fund to help women afford contraception, while Charlie Baker -- the leading Republican candidate in the gubernatorial race -- has promised to set aside $300,000 in state funds for the same purpose if elected.

In Michigan, state lawmakers have taken a different approach and introduced a resolution that asks Congress to bar for-profit employers from using religious objections to deny employees coverage of other health care services, such as blood transfusions or vaccinations (Villacorta, Politico Pro, 8/7).