February 6, 2015 — Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) on Wednesday introduced legislation (HR 742, S 358) that would require the military's health plan, TRICARE, to cover contraceptive services and counseling without copayments, The Hill reports (Wong, The Hill, 2/5).
Speier and Shaheen introduced similar legislation last year.
Currently, active-duty servicewomen have access to prescription drugs, including contraceptives, without copays. However, women who are not on active duty and other women covered through TRICARE have varying levels of copays, depending on the type of contraceptive. The plan covers nearly 10 million individuals, including service members, military retirees and their families (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/22/14).
Speier noted in a statement that while the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) "guarantees civilian women coverage of women's health preventive services, such as access to ... FDA-approved contraception and counseling without cost sharing, this policy does not apply to many servicewomen and dependents covered through TRICARE."
She added that recent studies have found unplanned pregnancy rates are about 50% higher among female services members compared with the general population.
The House bill has 65 co-sponsors, all of whom are Democrats.
Service Women's Action Network Interim CEO Erica Hunt said in the statement with Speier that "servicewomen do not have access to the reproductive health care and education they need," adding that the legislation would "help meet the health needs of the entire force, including servicewomen, and is critical to the military's ability to accomplish its mission."
Speier added, "We owe female servicemembers the same access to contraception and family planning services as the women they fight to protect."
Women's and health groups also support the legislation, The Hill reports (The Hill, 2/5).