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Bill aims to preserve contraceptive coverage for women

A bill aimed at keeping the birth control provisions of the Affordable Care Act available under state laws passed its first legislative committee this week.

House Bill 284 would require insurance companies to provide coverage for Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive prescription medications, clinical services and long-acting birth control devices without cost-sharing.

Those benefits have been available since 2012 under the Affordable Care Act, which Congressional Republicans have said they plan to repeal.

Rep. Deborah Armstrong

Rep. Deborah Armstrong

“We are aiming to solidify and protect in New Mexico laws the full access to contraceptive protection in all forms now provided under the ACA,” said Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, who sponsored the bill along with Reps. Patricia Roybal Caballero, Joanne Ferrary, Christine Trujillo and Linda Trujillo, all Democrats.

The House Health and Human Services committee approved the bill on a 5 to 1 vote on Wednesday. It is now headed to the House Judiciary Committee.

In a fiscal impact report on the bill, the state Department of Health calculated that nearly 300,000 women in New Mexico could be at risk of unintended pregnancies,”which increase the risk for poor maternal and infant outcomes.”

Armstrong pointed out that the bill would also expand on the current federal law by enabling women to get insurance coverage for 12-month contraceptive prescriptions.

The state Health Department said in the impact report that there is evidence that providing a 12-month supply of contraceptive is cost-effective and that shorter durations of prescription availability contribute to a higher rate of unwanted pregnancies.

Concerns that current access to contraceptives may go away if the Affordable Care Act is repealed appears to be driving many women to obtain long-acting birth control intrauterine devices that can provide pregnancy prevention for up to 10 years. The devices, which can cost up to $1,000, are available free or at low cost under the ACA and to women with Medicaid coverage.

“Planned Parenthood nationally has seen a 900 percent increase in IUD appointments since the election. It’s significant,” said Whitney Phillips, communications director for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, which oversees Colorado, New Mexico, southern Nevada and Wyoming.

The fiscal impact report noted that the bill referred to services for “device insertion and removal” but did not specify that the cost of the devices would be covered.

If passed, the bill would maintain ACA contraceptive benefits through changes to the state Health Care Purchasing Act, the New Mexico Insurance Code, the Health Maintenance Organization law and the Public Assistance Act. The bill does allow religious entities to exclude insurance coverage for contraceptive drugs or devices from their policies.