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New State Guide On Insurance Coverage for Prescription Contraceptives

(Washington DC, 11/24/03):  In addition to the state and federal laws against sex discrimination in the workplace, 20 states have passed new laws that require insurance companies to cover prescription contraceptives if they cover other prescription drugs.  To help women use these insurance laws to get coverage for prescription contraceptives, the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) today released a new consumer guide, Contraceptive Equity Laws in Your State: Know Your Rights - Use Your Rights. 

The 20 states that have these new insurance laws and are included in the guide are: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.      

The guide provides a state-by-state summary of the key provisions of the contraceptive equity laws in the 20 states, procedures for filing a complaint if your insurance company does not cover contraceptives, contact information for state insurance departments and complaint forms.  The online version of the guide, located at www.nwlc.org/pdf/concovstateguide2003.pdf, provides direct links to facilitate filing a complaint electronically where that service is available.  Also, by calling NWLC's toll-free number, 1-866-Pill4Us, or visiting www.nwlc.org/pill4us, those seeking contraceptive coverage can obtain step-by-step assistance from NWLC, request expert speakers for conferences and association meetings, order the free guide, and learn more about their legal rights. 

Susan (last name withheld), like millions of women, had a problem.  Her employer, Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, did not provide insurance coverage for prescription contraceptives, so Susan paid for them out-of-pocket.  Even though the hospital covered other prescription drugs and preventative care, Susan's frustration grew because this omission seemed so unfair.  Susan asked her employer to provide the insurance coverage, but when she hit a wall, she contacted the NWLC through its website.  After NWLC attorneys wrote to Lenox Hill Hospital and let it know that its failure to cover prescription contraceptives was illegal under federal and state laws against sex discrimination in employment, the hospital agreed to add the coverage.  Employees were informed of the coverage change this month. 

"Susan's story proves that women can take an active role in getting their employers to include coverage of prescription contraceptives as part of their health plans.  Like many employers, Lenox Hill Hospital did the right thing when it became aware of the inequality in men's and women's health benefits," said Judith C. Appelbaum, NWLC Vice President and Legal Director.    

"Access to contraception is a central part of women's health care.  It's essential for women to know that there are new laws to help them get insurance coverage for prescription contraceptives - and that we are here to help them understand and exercise their rights," said Appelbaum.

The release of Contraceptive Equity Laws in Your State: Know Your Rights - Use Your Rights marks the first time that information on every state contraceptive equity law has been assembled in one place.  Since the enforcement procedures are not obvious or widely known, the guide will fill a gap for those seeking to enforce their rights.  www.nwlc.org/pill4us also has available a user-friendly booklet, Take Action: Get Your Prescription Contraceptives Covered, which includes materials workers can use to ask their employers to cover prescription contraceptives in their health plans.   

For additional information, please see "Coverage of Contraceptives in Health Insurance: The Facts You Should Know".

The National Women's Law Center is a non-profit organization that has been working since 1972 to advance and protect women's legal rights.  The Center focuses on major policy areas of importance to women and their families including economic security, education, employment and health, with special attention given to the concerns of low-income women.

Created: 11/27/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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