February 8, 2023
Annapolis, US 42 F

Maryland nearing comprehensive insurance for birth control coverage

Medical symbolMaryland, a trailblazer for women’s health, has the most comprehensive family planning coverage in the country and is one step closer to total insurance coverage for contraception. Twenty years ago, Maryland was the first state to mandate coverage for birth control and then two years ago Maryland implemented the nation’s largest expansion of private insurance — eliminating all out-of-pocket costs for birth control and thereby removing a substantial barrier to women’s health. Nearly 9 in 10 women of reproductive age will use contraception at some point in their lives, whether it’s for family planning or other medical reasons.

“While it may seem as if most of the country is trying to take away women’s rights, the Maryland General Assembly, County Executives and Planned Parenthood of Maryland are working together to expand access and push reproductive rights forward,” said Karen Nelson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Maryland (PPM).

Research shows that getting a 12-month supply of birth control at a time reduces unintended pregnancy rates by 30 percent, and as a result the Center for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC) recommended that all health care providers give women 12-months of birth control at a time.

Earlier this year, Maryland codified those federal guidelines and today, doctors are writing prescriptions and pharmacies can fill those prescriptions for a 12-month supply of birth control if a state-regulated commercial health plan, the State Employee and Retiree Health Benefits Plan, or the Maryland Medical Assistance Program insures the patient.

Maryland is one of only a dozen states to have enacted similar laws.

On May 23rd, Baltimore County took a major step and became the first County in the nation to offer similar benefits to its employees. A Baltimore County Council resolution introduced by Councilman Tom Quirk (District 1) calls on the County to amend its employee insurance plan and ensure that benefits pay for women to pick up a 12-month supply of birth control without a copay from the pharmacy rather than the 90-day supply currently provided. This resolution creates a pathway for the Baltimore County employee health insurance plan to align with CDC recommendations and the Maryland State Employee Health Benefits Plan. Women in the County’s health insurance plan will have the same access to birth control as women covered by other types of health plans in Maryland.

The American Association of University Women, Maryland Nurses Association, Maryland Affiliate of the American College of Nurse Midwives, and Consumer Health First came to support this practice because it reduces barriers for women to access contraception. A peer-reviewed research study from University of California at San Francisco demonstrated that access to a full-year supply of oral contraceptives helps women eliminate gaps in contraceptive use and is associated with a 30 percent decrease in unintended pregnancies and 46 percent reduction in abortions.

“At Planned Parenthood, we know that if you do not have control over your body, you will never be fully free or equal. We know that birth control access is about the basic right for each person to pursue her or his own life’s path,” Nelson said.

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