AFFORDABILITY IS ACCESS: Murray Announces New Legislation to Expand Access to Affordable Over-the-Counter Birth Control
Murray’s new legislation would build on contraceptive coverage access in Affordable Care Act, make sure insurance companies cover over-the-counter daily birth control pills without a prescription
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee announced the Affordability is Access Act, a new bill that would build on contraception coverage access in the Affordable Care Act by ensuring that when the FDA approves birth control pills for over the counter use, they will be covered without cost sharing and without the need for a prescription. The legislation would help expand women’s access to affordable birth control while maintaining the FDA’s sole authority to determine the safety and quality of drugs.
In a call with leaders from NARAL Pro Choice America, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), Murray highlighted that the Affordability is Access Act would allow women to have access to convenient, FDA-approved over-the-counter birth control pills without being forced to pay extra out of pocket on top of their insurance. She urged her colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join her in making birth control pills more affordable and more accessible for all women, rather than fighting to take away contraceptive coverage as some Republicans have proposed.
“I believe strongly that women should be able to get the comprehensive health care they need, when they need it—without being charged extra, without asking permission, and without politicians interfering,” said Senator Murray. “I’m proud to be fighting for the Affordability is Access Act, which would help make sure women can have safe, convenient, over-the-counter access to birth control without being forced to pay extra on top of their insurance.”
Original Senate Cosponsors of the Affordability is Access Act: Patty Murray (D-WA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Harry Reid (D-NV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Al Franken (D-MN), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:
“I believe strongly that women should be able to get the comprehensive health care they need, when they need it—without being charged extra, without asking permission, and without politicians interfering. Making approved birth control pills available over-the-counter is another important step forward in terms of women’s access to health care. But anyone will tell you that if something is too expensive, it doesn’t matter how easy it is to get. It might as well be on the moon.”
“…affordability and access go hand in hand—you can’t have one without the other. That’s why Democrats fought to ensure that contraception would be covered with no co-pay under the Affordable Care Act. We felt that women shouldn’t have to pay out of their own pockets for a critical part of their health care, just because their insurance didn’t cover it. And now, millions of women across the country saving on preventive care, including contraception, because it must be covered.”
“The bill I’m introducing today, the Affordability is Access Act, builds on this progress. It would make sure when the FDA determines a birth control pill is appropriate for routine, daily use without a prescription, insurance companies have to continue to cover it. So that women can have safe, convenient, over-the-counter access without being forced to pay extra on top of their insurance.”
“…unfortunately some of my Republican colleagues are taking a different approach. They’ve said they support over-the-counter birth control pills—but they are also dead-set on taking away women’s access to contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act. If they had their way, women might be able to get birth control pills over the counter—but it wouldn’t be fully covered. That could mean paying as much as $600 every year for birth control—which could put this essential health benefit out of reach for millions of women. This Republican approach of access without affordability is like offering somebody a single shoe. You really need the pair! And we need progress on women’s health—not just smoke and mirrors.”
“I’m proud today to be introducing the Affordability is Access Act and fighting for better access to affordable birth control. I hope that my colleagues who truly share this goal will join our effort—rather than continuing to push for an approach that would take away critical health benefits for women across the country.”
See below for details on the Affordability Is Access Act (AAA):
- Ensures coverage of comprehensive preventive health services and expands coverage to include full access to oral contraception for routine, daily over-the-counter use for all women. All private health insurance plans are now required to cover all U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved methods of contraception. The Act would ensure coverage of all oral contraception that the FDA has approved or regulated for routine, daily use without a prescription.
- Maintains the FDA’s sole authority to determine the safety, quality, and efficacy of drugs and make them available over-the-counter without a prescription. It is imperative that the entities that research and develop oral contraceptives, and whose medical and scientific experts have developed clinical and other evidence that birth control pills are safe and effective for women when sold without a prescription, apply to the FDA for review and approval for sale without a prescription.
Upon the receipt of such an application, the FDA must determine whether the contraceptive product meets the rigorous safety, efficacy, and quality standards for over-the-counter use, as established by the agency Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. If the product meets such these standards, the FDA should approve the application without delay.
- Ensures Retailers Provide Oral Contraception without a Prescription. The Act states that any retailer that stocks oral contraception that the FDA has approved or regulated for routine, daily use without a prescription may not interfere with a consumer’s access to or purchase of such contraception.
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