June 10, 2015 — Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on Tuesday introduced a bill (S 1532) that would require insurance companies to cover oral contraceptives approved by the FDA for over-the-counter use, USA Today reports (Davis, USA Today, 6/9).
According to The Hill, the measure comes in response to a conservative proposal (S 1438) that would incentivize drugmakers to request that FDA make their prescription contraceptives available over-the-counter (Ferris, The Hill, 6/9).
Background on Conservative Proposal
Last month, Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) introduced a measure that would waive filing fees for drugmakers that apply for an FDA waiver to allow the products to be sold OTC. 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 measure effectively would eliminate the ACA's provision 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 Policy Report, 5/27).
Details on Contraceptive Coverage Bill
Murray's bill would uphold the ACA's contraceptive coverage provisions in the case that certain forms of birth control become available without a prescription (The Hill, 6/9).
It does not include language incentivizing FDA or drugmakers to make FDA-approved contraceptives available OTC. Murray said her bill excluded such language to ensure there is no "political pressure on the FDA to approve drugs without going through the regular process" (USA Today, 6/9).
Murray said the measure has 25 co-sponsors, including Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) (The Hill, 6/9).
Murray said of the conservative proposal, "Women shouldn't have to pay out of their own pockets for a critical part of their health care just because their insurance didn't cover it." She added, "I believe strongly that women should be able to get the comprehensive health care they need when they need it, without being charged extra, without asking permission and without politicians interfering."
Similarly, in reference to the conservative proposal, Planned Parenthood Federation of America President and CEO Cecile Richards said, "Access to birth control doesn't mean much unless it's affordable access. You can make birth control available [OTC], but if it still costs $600 a year, it will be out of reach for many women" (USA Today, 6/9).