Friday, September 06, 2002

Bill would put contraceptives in health plans

By Liz Sidoti
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS - Two female lawmakers say the state should require all companies to include prescription contraceptive coverage in insurance plans because birth control is a basic health-care necessity and an employment equity issue.

        The proposal is the basis of identical bills introduced Thursday by Rep. Teresa Fedor, a Toledo Democrat, and Sen. Priscilla Mead, a Columbus Republican.

        “Supporting an employee's pregnancy prevention is a sound business practice and it makes bottom-line sense,” Ms. Mead said at a news conference where chocolates shaped like packages of birth-control pills and buttons promoting contraceptives were distributed.

        The debate over contraceptive coverage has heated up nationally in the four years since the male impotence drug Viagra went on the market, with 20 states approving legislation similar to the Ohio proposal and 13 others considering it.

        Ms. Fedor and Ms. Mead said the Legislature likely would not consider their bills before the session ends Dec. 31, even though they have bipartisan support, because of the Nov. 5 election and other issues. They said they would reintroduce the legislation next year.

        The legislation, which has 17 co-sponsors in the House and six in the Senate, would require both public and private employers to cover birth-control pills, diaphragms and other forms of prescription contraceptives the same as they would any other prescription medication.

        The state provides such coverage for public employees.

        Insurers and businesses say the state shouldn't mandate insurance coverage, especially because businesses voluntarily provide health benefits to workers.

        “This is something that should be left to the employers and the employees to decide, and not something that the state should step into,” said Joe Luckok, spokesman of the Health Insurance Association of America, which represents about 300 insurance companies nationwide.

        An Ohio coalition of women's health and labor groups supporting the legislation, the Alliance for Contraceptive Equity, argues that it's unfair that many insurance companies cover Viagra but do not cover birth control.

        “The time is now,” Ms. Fedor said. “If not now, when?”


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