The Lead

Shapiro joins call for clarity on Affordable Care Act coverage of OTC birth control pills

By: - December 4, 2023 5:43 pm

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Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro and the governors of five other states urged the Biden administration to ensure that a new over-the-counter birth control pill is covered by insurance.

The medication, approved in July by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is the first-ever daily birth control pill available without a prescription. In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, the governors said the development could revolutionize access to contraception in the United States.

The governors, all members of the nonpartisan Reproductive Freedom Alliance executive committee, urged Becerra to ensure the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services takes steps to ensure the non-prescription birth control option is covered without a cost by private health insurance plans covered by Affordable Care Act regulations, Medicare, and Medicaid.

The ACA requires insurance to provide coverage for all FDA-approved forms of contraception without a co-pay. To ensure compliance with the requirement, they asked the department to update its guidelines to clarify that the ACA’s preventative health mandate includes over-the-counter contraceptives. 

The letter cited a 2020 Women’s Health Issues study finding that with no costs or low costs, a large population of women are likely to use an OTC birth control pill, leading to greater access and fewer unintended pregnancies.

“As Governors, we see firsthand the need for affordable and accessible reproductive health coverage in our communities. In forming the Reproductive Freedom Alliance, we vowed to safeguard and improve reproductive healthcare access in the face of an unprecedented assault on the right to primary healthcare,” the letter reads.

In addition to Shapiro, the letter was signed by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Grisham, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker. 

The Reproductive Freedom Alliance is a nonpartisan coalition of 21 governors committed to protecting and expanding reproductive freedom in their states. Shapiro joined the coalition in February.

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Peter Hall
Peter Hall

Peter Hall has been a journalist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for more than 20 years, most recently covering criminal justice and legal affairs for The Morning Call in Allentown. His career at local newspapers and legal business publications has taken him from school board meetings to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and many points of interest between. He earned a degree in journalism from Susquehanna University.