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Murray Applauds HHS Announcement Clarifying Consumer Rights on Contraception Coverage, Preventive Care

Announcement follows Murray-led letter urging HHS to act to ensure insurance companies uphold ACA requirements on women’s health 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) applauded the announcement by Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell that the Administration will release guidance clarifying consumers’ rights on contraception coverage and other essential health benefits under the Affordable Care Act following reports of violations, including in Washington state.

“Today’s announcement is an important step toward making it clear that all insurance companies should follow the rules and provide women with the health care they are entitled to, including access to all forms of FDA-approved contraceptive methods. I’ve been deeply concerned about reports in Washington state and across the country that show insurers are failing to uphold the standards set in the Affordable Care Act when it comes to women’s health. I’m pleased that with this announcement Secretary Burwell is acting to address these violations as well as others that have become barriers to accessing critical preventive care, especially for those in the transgender community. I look forward to continuing to work with her and my colleagues to help the families and communities we serve get the health care they need.”

The Affordable Care Act provided access to important preventive services, including birth control, at no cost.  However, recent reports by the National Women’s Law Center, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Northwest Health Law Advocates and NARAL Pro-Choice Washington indicate that some qualified health plans are not in compliance with the law and have been denying women coverage, charging them incorrectly, or providing inaccurate information. The reports also identified gaps in coverage for transition-related care, preventive services for covered dependents, and other critical health care needs.

The HHS announcement comes after Murray and 38 Democrats urged Secretary Burwell to correct these violations by helping states develop plans of action to ensure health plans comply with the Affordable Care Act and provide full access to all FDA-approved form of contraception, and by encouraging states to take appropriate enforcement action when necessary.  Murray also sent a letter to eight insurers in Washington state calling their failure to provide accurate information unacceptable, and encouraged them to increase transparency. Three of these insurers, Coordinated Care, Bridgespan, and Community Health Plan of Washington have responded in writing and committed to addressing the reported issues.

Today’s announcement also provided clarification on the preventive services guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act for transgender individuals and covered dependents, helping to ensure they can access the full range of preventive services they need, and addressed other gaps related to genetic counseling and colonoscopies.