Senate passes Euer bill to
ensure contraceptive coverage
STATE HOUSE – The Senate today passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Dawn Euer that would ensure contraception remains covered in Rhode Island, even if the coverage requirements in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are overturned.
“We have seen an increasingly extreme Supreme Court attack freedoms we had long assumed were secure,” said Senator Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown), who serves as Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary. “This bill ensures that Rhode Islanders will continue to have access to the contraceptive care they need, no matter what happens on the federal level.”
Prior to 2010, over 1 in 5 women paid out-of-pocket costs for contraceptives, often comprising an estimated 30-44% of their total health care spending, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That year, former President Obama signed the ACA, often called Obamacare, into law. The ACA requires health insurers to provide many preventative services, including contraceptives, at no cost to patients. Since then, most Americans have been able to access free contraception, though some religious employers are exempt from providing their employees this coverage.
According to a report from the federal Office of Health Policy, access to no-cost contraceptives improves a variety of women’s health and economic outcomes, including increased wages, reduced rates of entry into poverty and increased rates of entry into professional school or the labor force.
But the ACA has faced over 2,000 legal challenges over the past 14 years. The U.S. Supreme Court weakened the contraceptive coverage requirements of the law twice, in 2014’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and in 2020’s Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania.
Another case, Braidwood Management Inc. v. Becerra, is currently winding its way through the courts. On March 30, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled that some of the ACA’s preventative coverage requirements were unconstitutional. Among other things, the judge struck down coverage requirements for HIV prevention medications as a violation of religious freedom. The judge left the ACA’s contraceptive coverage requirements intact, but the case will likely make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has moved in a more conservative direction since 2020.
Senator Euer’s bill (2023 S-00526) would require health insurers to continue to offer no-cost contraceptives, regardless of what happens on the federal level. Insurers would be required to cover all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive drugs or, when safe and appropriate, their generic equivalents. Coverage for devices and other products, voluntary sterilization procedures, patient education and counseling on contraception and follow-up services would also be required. Patients could not be charged a deductible or copay for any of these services (with an exception for patients with qualifying high-deductible insurance plans). The bill would also require Medicaid to cover a 12-month supply of contraceptives.
“Access to health care has never been more vital. All of our health, rights, and freedoms are at risk because we know that anti-abortion politicians and judges will not stop at overturning Roe v. Wade and are working towards a broader agenda,” said Gretchen Raffa, vice president of public policy, advocacy and organizing at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. “This bill is critical legislation to update Rhode Island law, mandating coverage of contraceptives with the ACA protections that safeguard access to birth control with no-cost sharing. Preventative health care covered by insurance is essential and has helped people live healthier and longer lives. We thank Senator Euer for introducing the bill again this session because individual components of the ACA remain at risk on the federal level from politically motivated attacks and we must do everything we can to protect these essential health benefits, including no-cost contraceptive care, into state law.”
The bill now heads to the House, where Rep. Karen Alzate has introduced similar legislation (2023-H 5477).