Birth Control Access, Congress

DelBene Urges Action on Contraception Coverage

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U.S. Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-1), who represents Whatcom County, sent a letter to the eight insurance companies that provide coverage in the state exchange under the Affordable Care Act demanding that they provide accurate, consistent information about contraceptive benefits to their customers. Under the ACA, contraception must be covered under all health plans at no cost to the insurance subscriber.

DelBene’s comments came in response to a report produced jointly by NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and Northwest Health Law Advocates, which found that all eight of the companies providing insurance on the state exchange gave inaccurate or misleading information to women, from telling them they would have to pay a copay or that a certain form of contraception (particularly long-acting contraception, which tends to be more expensive, and emergency contraception) was not covered. Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler gathered representatives of the insurance companies together and extracted a promise that they’ll improve their customer service; the companies said they would provide the commissioner with an update on their progress in October.

DelBene tells the insurance companies:

I am writing to express my serious concern with recent reports that consumers are receiving inaccurate information regarding the coverage and cost of contraceptive services. While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires issuers of qualified health plans (QHPs) to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive methods without cost-sharing, this guarantee is not realized if women cannot access clear, consistent, and accurate information from their carriers about their health insurance plans, medical benefits, and cost-sharing responsibilities. Consequently, I was troubled to learn that QHP enrollees in Washington may be receiving misinformation from their carriers about birth-control coverage, and I urge you to take swift action to address this critical issue for women across our state.

She goes on to ask the insurers five specific, pointed questions, including: whether all covered methods of birth control are listed, and listed individually, in the insurer’s formulary; whether customer service representatives (the focus of the study) are being trained to provide accurate information; and what the company has done to ensure that non-generic drugs deemed medically necessary are being covered with no cost-sharing.

Read DelBene’s entire letter here; and read the full report on the Office of the Insurance Commissioner’s website.

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