House Oversight panel presses insurers on free birth control coverage

The House Oversight and Reform Committee is pressing major health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers on their coverage of contraceptives, saying they may not be fully complying with requirements to cover them at no cost to the patient.

Chair Carolyn Maloney (DN.Y.) sent letters to nine companies requesting information on their birth control coverage, which they are required to cover fully under Affordable Care Act (ACA) rules.

“I am deeply troubled by reports that health plans and issuers may not be fully complying with the ACA’s requirement to cover contraceptives at no cost, potentially depriving patients of access to critically important reproductive health care,” Maloney said in a statement. “I am committed to uncovering the full extent of this problem and ensuring that every person can access the birth control that works best for them without unnecessary cost or delay.”

She wrote that insurers are sometimes not covering contraceptives that were recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration or were sometimes requiring payment for the surrounding services, such as an office visit.

“Public reporting and information obtained by the Committee indicates that some plans and issuers, including their pharmacy benefit managers (PBM), have not been in compliance with these requirements,” Maloney wrote.

The committee cited a report from the National Women’s Law Center, which operates a hotline where people can report problems accessing birth control through their insurance.

“These violations leave people to pay out of pocket for the birth control they need, push them into using a method that is not right for them because of cost, or cause them to forego contraception altogether,” the report states.

An increased spotlight has also fallen on contraceptive access recently given the expected ruling from the Supreme Court overturning the right to an abortion in Roe v. Wade. That ruling is set to be issued sometime next month.

Maloney requests answers by June 9.

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