State News

Senate passes birth control bill, pregnancy enrollment

By Erin Mansfield,
The Senate has passed a bill that would expand women’s access to long-acting birth control and men’s access to vasectomies, and allow pregnant women to enroll in Vermont Health Connect more conveniently.
The Senate passed H.620 in a voice vote Monday, May 2, after giving it preliminary approval Friday. The House now has the option of accepting changes or negotiating a deal. A third reading is still pending in the lower chamber.
The Senate added a provision allowing women to buy insurance through Vermont Health Connect when they get pregnant. Currently, pregnant women need to wait for an open enrollment period, because becoming pregnant is not considered a “life change” that qualifies for special enrollment.
The main provisions of H.620 codify the federal Affordable Care Act into Vermont law, saying that health insurance companies must provide access to birth control, including intrauterine devices and contraceptive implants, with no copay.
The bill goes further to require Vermont’s insurers to cover vasectomies for men with no out-of-pocket cost and allow women to buy a one-year supply of birth control pills, as opposed to one month or three months’ worth.
The bill also would increase how much Vermont’s Medicaid program reimburses doctors for inserting intrauterine devices and contraceptive implants. Advocates for the bill say doctors with higher reimbursement rates are more likely to stock expensive IUDs and implants, therefore giving women more access to those birth control methods.
Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Addison, spoke in favor of the bill on the Senate floor. She said 50 percent of pregnancies in Vermont are unintended and that unintended pregnancies affect women’s educational and career goals.
Further, Ayer said 74 percent of unintended pregnancies in Vermont are paid for through Medicaid. “This bill will ensure contraceptive access,” she said. “It will improve our public health and save the state money.”

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