May 27, 2015 — Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) on Thursday introduced legislation that would incentivize pharmaceutical companies that make "routine-use contraceptives" to apply for an FDA waiver to allow the products to be sold over-the-counter, the Denver Post's "The Spot" reports (Bartels, "The Spot," Denver Post, 5/21).
Under the measure, FDA filing fees for such applications would be waived, and FDA would prioritize them for review (Bassett, Huffington Post, 5/22). In addition, the bill would repeal the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) prohibitions on the use of health, medical and flexible savings accounts to purchase OTC contraceptives ("The Spot," Denver Post, 5/21).
According to the Huffington Post, the measure effectively would eliminate the ACA's requirements that health plans offer contraceptives at no cost, since the law's contraceptive coverage rules apply only to contraceptives that require prescriptions. As a result, insurers under the bill would not have to cover OTC contraception.
Women's Health Advocates, Medical Group Voice Concerns
Several health groups spoke out against the bill, voicing concerns that it could increases costs for women, the Huffington Post reports.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards in a statement said her group "supports expanding access to birth control, which means making it available [OTC] and also requiring it to be covered by insurance, so that it is affordable for all women." She called the bill a "sham" that "would actually restrict women's choices and cost women more money."
Similarly, Mark DeFrancesco, president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said the bill would "make more women have to pay for their birth control, and for some women, the cost would be prohibitive." He added that while ACOG supports increasing access to contraception, it "cannot support a plan that creates one route to access at the expense of another, more helpful route" (Huffington Post, 5/22).
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue in a statement called the bill deceptive, noting that the measure intends to make voters think "these anti-choice legislators are on the side of women, when their track records tell a starkly different story." She said, "This legislation hurts women by making affordable birth control less accessible while forcing women to pay twice for the same services" (Bartels, "The Spot," Denver Post, 5/22).