State News

Gov. Shumlin signs law to protect and expand access to no-cost birth control

With important Obamacare provisions that ensure no-cost birth control for women being challenged nationwide, on May 23, Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a law to codify and expand access to those services in Vermont law. Importantly, the law will ensure that vasectomies for men are available at no charge, making Vermont the first state to extend no-cost birth control protections to men.

“While Republicans in other states and the U.S. Congress are working to roll back reproductive rights, I am proud to sign this law to expand them,” Gov. Shumlin said. “This law will ensure that Vermonters will be protected from efforts to undermine important birth control provisions in the Affordable Care Act. And Vermont will now be the first state to make it easier for men to be involved in birth control decisions. Once again, Vermont is leading the way on reproductive rights.”

The new Vermont law expands current coverage by requiring insurers to provide contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for all insured individuals in Vermont without cost-sharing, delays, or denial of coverage. It makes Vermont the first state to require that insurance companies cover vasectomies at no cost. It allows women to obtain up to 12 months of hormonal contraceptive methods during one visit. It increases Medicaid reimbursement rates for long-acting reversible contraceptives. And it allows women who become pregnant to sign up for health insurance immediately, rather than requiring them to wait for an open enrollment period.

The law comes at a time of uncertainty for the birth control protections included in the federal Affordable Care Act and reproductive rights. Last week, the Supreme Court declined to resolve several challenges to the protections, instead urging lower courts to work to resolve the issues. The Supreme Court currently has only eight members because U.S. Senate Republicans have refused to vote on President Obama’s nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia who died in February.

Also last week, Oklahoma’s legislature passed a bill that would have sent doctors performing abortions to jail.

“In 2016, it is disheartening that we are still having these debates about reproductive rights,” Gov. Shumlin said. “Vermont has been a leader when it comes to protecting those rights and we will continue to do so.”

Vermont has made significant progress in expanding health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. According to a 2014 survey, Vermont cut in half its uninsured rate, extending insurance to over 19,000 Vermonters who lacked it in 2012. Vermont’s uninsured rate of 3.7 percent is tied for the lowest in America.

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