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N.Y. Officials Propose Contraceptive Coverage Notification Bill

July 21, 2014 — New York's attorney general and a top Democratic lawmaker have proposed legislation that would require employers to notify employees 90 days before changing their contraceptive coverage policies, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) and state Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) proposed the measure in light of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, which permits some employers to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage to their workers if the businesses' owners have religious objections (AP/Sacramento Bee, 7/17).

The bill, called the Reproductive Rights Disclosure Act, also would require employers to inform prospective workers about their contraceptive coverage options prior to hiring them. The legislation would apply to all companies conducting business within the state that offer employer-sponsored health plans.

According to USA Today, the legislation would impose a $5,000 fine for each violation.

N.Y. Gov. Proposes Women's Party Line on Ballot

In related news, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D) gubernatorial campaign launched an initiative to create a new ballot line dedicated to women's issues, called the Women's Equality Party.

According to USA Today, supporters will have to collect 15,000 signatures to place the line on the ballot, with petitions due in late August. If successful, Cuomo could garner up to four ballot lines, including the Woman's Equality, Democratic, Working Families and Independence parties.

Kathy Hochul -- a former Congress member and Cuomo's running mate -- said that the new party "will bring together the strength and power of our state's women leaders to promote the Women's Equality Agenda and influence policy and government."

Meanwhile, Zephyr Teachout, Cuomo's opponent in the Democratic primary, said, "Last time I checked, the Democratic Party is supposed to stand for women's equality," adding that the state does not need "a new 'party' for women's equality," but rather "a new governor with traditional Democratic values" (Campbell, USA Today, 7/17).

N.Y. Medicaid Officials Urge Private Insurers To Cover Long-Term Contraceptives

New York Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker on Thursday called on health care providers to offer immediate post-birth insertion of intrauterine devices and contraceptive implants to low-income women covered in the state's Medicaid program, the AP/Miami Herald reports.

According to AP/Miami Herald, the state's Medicaid program began covering the devices in the spring. State officials on Thursday said that offering the devices to women immediately after birth as opposed to a follow-up appointment would help prevent pregnancies during the interim or a reluctance to return for an insertion procedure.

Officials also called on private insurers to cover the devices, which range from $350 to $700.

Zucker said, "When a woman is able to plan her subsequent pregnancies, she is better able to safeguard her health and well-being, as well as that of any future children." He said that the federal government covers 80% to 90% of the cost of the devices for women in the Medicaid program, and that the state covers the remaining cost.

Separately, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights in an email Thursday criticized the move, saying the "idea that the government is now in the business of arm-twisting women not to have more children 'immediately after childbirth' is morally obnoxious and socially disturbing" (Sisak, AP/Miami Herald, 7/17).