The state of Maryland is at the forefront of birth control reform as it announces the passage of the Maryland Contraceptive Equity Act of 2016. While some of its provisions still require women to have insurance, the law will cover the gaps left in insurance plans and ensure that countless more Maryland women have affordable and largely free access to the birth control options they need.
Provisions of the Maryland Contraceptive Equity Act of 2016
The law is not all-inclusive and cannot provide free birth control to all female citizens of Maryland, but it is a large step up in the fight for women's birth control. The major provisions of the law include eliminating co-pays for common birth control methods, lifting pre-authorization requirements on IUDs, and providing insurance coverage for emergency contraceptives.
No Co-Pay for Birth Control
Perhaps the most accessible benefit of the Maryland Contraceptive Equity Act is the elimination of co-payments for common types of birth control. Women who use hormonal birth control normally available as prescription pills will no longer need to pay in addition to their insurance premiums. Similar contraceptives will also be available to women who have insurance without the need to pay additional money for holes in insurance coverage.
No Co-Pay for Vasectomies
Maryland men with health insurance will now have significantly easier access to male birth control options, such as vasectomies, under this law. They will no longer need to cover the co-pay for the procedure, putting Maryland ahead of almost every other US state for including men in the rights to contraception.
Pre-Authorizations on IUDs and LARCs Lifted
The process to receive reversible contraceptive implants such as intra-uterine devices (IUDs,) including Mirena, will shorten thanks to the new law. Referred to as long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), these implants improve the efficacy of contraception by eliminating human error. The constant birth control effect allows for normal sexual activity without needing to schedule dosages.
Women normally must receive authorization to begin the process of receiving a LARC, but in Maryland, preapproval requirements will be eliminated.
Up to Six Months of Birth Control at a Time
The law will require insurance companies to allow insured patients to acquire six months of birth control at one time. This provision alleviates the burden of scheduling visits to a doctor or gynecologist on a frequent basis and saves money on checkups and prescriptions.
Insurance Coverage for Over-the-Counter Contraceptives
Insurance companies must now cover emergency contraceptives like Plan-B and any other over-the-counter contraceptive medications and devices. For those unable to get a prescription for contraceptives, this option will open new doors for birth control.
Opponents of the Law
Conservative representatives have expressed concern about the economic impact of what the savings on birth control will mean for the cost of health insurance. There has also been an outcry over violation of conservative values of chastity, wherein conservative-minded citizens will have to pay increased insurance premiums to fund a law that opposes the conservative belief system.
However, opposition is low, and the positive impact of affordable birth control for Maryland society is expected in lower teen birth rates and higher overall quality of life. If it is successful, more states may follow suit.