Policy

Ohio bill would require insurance reimbursement for contraception

Bills in the state House and Senate would require insurers cover Food and Drug Administration-approved prescription contraceptive drugs or devices as well as related services. It’s part of legislation that would also revise rules on the state’s sex education policy to bar abstinence-only curriculum, as well as improve access to family planning clinics in the state.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Legislators are trying for the third straight year to change the insurance reimbursement rules for contraception.

Bills in the state House and Senate would require insurers cover Food and Drug Administration-approved prescription contraceptive drugs or devices as well as related services. It’s part of legislation that would also revise rules on the state’s sex education policy to bar abstinence-only curriculum, as well as improve access to family planning clinics in the state.

Similar bills were proposed in each of the past two legislative sessions but never made it out of committee.

“I think in public opinion and among my colleagues there is some incremental improvements in terms of people’s attitudes toward” the legislation, said Ohio Rep. Tyrone K. Yates, the sponsor of the House version of the bill.

Debora M. Spano, the regional director of public relations for UnitedHealthcare, said the company is reviewing the bills.

“As with any mandate, there is often added premium and/or out-of-pocket costs,” Spano stated. “While these bills are surely well intentioned, we do want to review to any and all potential consequences.”

The legislation would require insurance companies reimburse for FDA-approved contraception that is prescribed by a physician, as well as have equal terms, such as the amount of co-pay, compared to similar coverage. The legislation also eliminates the central focus on abstinence in state sexual education curriculum and heavily edits the discussion of consequences of sex outside of marriage. It requires “medically and scientifically accurate” curriculum on topics including AIDS and bars “materials that teach or promote religious doctrine.”

The new curriculum could stress the value of abstinence but it wouldn’t be “to the exclusion of other instruction and materials on contraceptive and disease reduction measures,” according to the bills.

The Coalition for Family Health — an advocacy group formed last year that includes the Cleveland Department of Public Health, National Council of Jewish Women and Planned Parenthood of Ohio — published a study last month saying Ohio was among the worst states in providing family planning resources. The group claimed a mix of policies and funding decisions contributed to problems such as unwanted pregnancy and a more rapid spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

The coalition endorses the lastest legislation, called the Ohio Prevention First Act.