June 4, 2015 — The Washington, D.C., City Council on Tuesday gave final approval to legislation that would require health plans in the District to authorize pharmacies to dispense up to a one-year supply of contraceptives at one time, the Washington Post reports.
The proposal now heads to the District's mayor for consideration. If approved, the legislation also must withstand a 30-day review period before Congress.
The measure would require that Medicaid and private insurers permit pharmacies to dispense enough contraceptives at one time to last women a full year. Currently, pharmacies in the District are permitted to dispense three months' worth of contraceptives at a time.
According to the Post, the proposed regulation would not affect coverage premiums. In addition, the proposal would not prohibit providers from prescribing one-month supplies of contraceptives if they are concerned about the method's safety or efficacy for certain patients.
Debate on the Measure
City Council officials hope the proposed change would help to reduce the incidence of unintended pregnancies in the District by increasing access to contraception, the Post reports. Specifically, D.C. Council Health and Human Services Committee Chair Yvette Alexander (D) said, "We want to do everything we can" to reduce teenage pregnancy in the District.
In addition, according to the Post, supporters of the legislation said the bill would help reduce barriers to contraception, especially for women in underserved areas. During a hearing on the bill, Noah Mamber, the public and legislative affairs manager at Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington Action Fund, said, "Nearly half of women using oral birth control receive only [one] month of pills at each appointment. This creates a serious barrier to care for women who lack convenient access to a pharmacy or health center that dispenses contraception."
Meanwhile, critics of the legislation claim that individuals might not know how to properly store contraceptives for an entire year or that a year's supply could be a disincentive for women to regularly see their health care providers (Stein, Washington Post, 6/2).