February 15, 2012 — Republican leaders in New Hampshire House are pushing to overturn a state law that requires health plans to cover contraceptive services, the Concord Monitor reports. House Speaker Bill O'Brien (R) said he and his colleagues learned of the law while they were drafting a measure to object to new federal rules on contraceptive coverage (Timmins, Concord Monitor, 2/14).
The New Hampshire law took effect in January 2000 after passing the Legislature with bipartisan support the previous year. It mandates that group health plans cover all FDA-approved prescription contraceptives (Wickham, New Hampshire Union Leader, 2/12). According to the Monitor, the coverage also must include contraception-related doctors visits.
Unlike the federal rules, the New Hampshire law includes no exemptions for health plans offered by religiously affiliated employers who oppose contraception. The state law applies directly to health insurance companies, not employers, including employers that are self-insured, according to Tyler Brannen, a health policy analyst for the state Insurance Department (Concord Monitor, 2/14). The state law also differs from the federal version in that health plans can still charge a copayment for contraceptive services (Bassett, Huffington Post, 2/13).
"Now that (the state law) has come to our attention, there are many of us that are quite concerned it remains on our books," O'Brien said at a press conference to denounce the federal rules. He was joined by U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass (R-N.H.), Manchester Bishop Peter Libasci and GOP gubernatorial candidate Kevin Smith.
Jennifer Frizzell , a senior policy adviser Planned Parenthood of Northern New England who was involved in hearings on the state law in 1999, noted that no Catholic leaders and religiously affiliated institutions raised objections at the time (Concord Monitor, 2/14). New Hampshire Catholic Charities and St. Anselm College are among the Catholic institutions that offer their employees contraceptive coverage because of the law (New Hampshire Union Leader, 2/12).