New law requires insurance to provide 12-month supply of birth control

BREMERTON — Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law May 16 a bill requiring insurance companies that provide birth control coverage to dispense 12 months’ worth at a time, meaning women will only have to pick up their prescription once a year.

House Bill 1234 makes Washington one of only seven states, plus Washington, D.C., to require that prescription availability.

“Twelve months of birth control is an affordable and accessible way for women to get the care they need,” said Katie Rogers, communications manager for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii. “It gives them control over when and if they have children, provides more career and education opportunities and means they’re less likely to depend on government programs.”

HB 1234 specifically states, “The legislature finds that a significant percentage of pregnancies are unintended and could be averted with broader access to health care and effective contraception. Research suggests that moving from 28 day dispensing of contraceptive drugs to 12-month dispensing improves adherence to maintenance of the drugs and effective use of the contraceptives.”

“We all deserve affordable and accessible birth control that works for us, regardless of our income or insurance carrier,” Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest/Hawaii CEO Elaine Rose said in an announcement about the bill signing.

“It is an incredible win, especially right now. We applaud our legislative champions who are bucking the trend and standing up for women. For women all across the country, and right here in Washington state, birth control access has meant money in their pocket and now freedom to pick up their pills once a year.”

Today, most women must refill their birth control every month, which is a burden for many and leads to inconsistent use, advocates for House Bill 1234 said. They say consistent use is the best way to help women avoid unintended pregnancies. “[Nineteen] percent of women who inconsistently use birth control account for 43 percent of unintended pregnancies,” according to Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest/Hawaii. “[Forty-six] percent of women who unintentionally became pregnant report that they were using some form of contraceptives. Providing one year of birth control at a time will increase consistent use and reduce unintended pregnancy.”

“It is extremely exciting, and Planned Parenthood is incredibly proud of all the representatives who worked on this,” Rogers said. “It’s just exciting to see this news, especially in the face of continued rollback of progress by the current (presidential) administration.”

On that note, Rogers said federal healthcare changes will not affect this bill, as it is a state law. “Whatever’s happening at the federal level would not impact local legislation,” she said.

This bill was championed by Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, and Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, among others.

“The passage of this bill makes reproductive health care that much more accessible,” Robinson said in the announcement of the bill signing. “The fact that this bill passed a divided legislature at a time when health care access is being rolled back left and right is momentous. Many women, especially low-income women, women in rural communities and women of color face barriers that make it challenging to get the prescriptions they need. We are proud to be one of a few states in the country to offer 12 months of birth control and expand women’s access.”

Section 2 of the bill states that any plan issued or renewed on or after Jan. 1, 2018 that covers birth control will be required to allow a 12-month supply to be filled by the enrollee. It also states, “Nothing in this section prohibits a health plan from limiting refills that may be obtained in the last quarter of he plan year if a 12-month supply of the contraceptive drug has already been dispensed during the plan year.”

Contraceptive drugs are defined in the bill as “all drugs approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration that are used to prevent pregnancy including, but not limited to, hormonal drugs administered orally, transdermally and intravaginally.”

To read the bill in its entirety, visit goo.gl/tFDEFb.

Michelle Beahm is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at mbeahm@soundpublishing.com.

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