Philadelphia/ Politics & Govt
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Published on April 02, 2024
Pennsylvania Gov. Shapiro Advocates for Insurer Coverage of Over-The-Counter Birth Control in Cost-Cutting Push Source: Wikipedia/Governor Tom Wolf from Harrisburg, PA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In a bold move to bolster women's reproductive rights, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro has called on insurers across the state to up their game when it comes to covering over-the-counter birth control, a step poised to ease financial burdens of contraception. The announcement follows the FDA's approval of the OTC daily birth control pill, Opill. Pennsylvania's health insurers are now being urged to cover OTC contraceptives sans prescription and bypass the usual lengthy exceptions process, according to state officials.

"For millions of women, birth control represents personal freedom and the ability to make choices over their own bodies. No one should be denied access to birth control because they can't afford it," Governor Shapiro stated, pushing forward a directive that could save women up to $250 a year. The Pennsylvania Insurance Department (PID) has signaled they will challenge any insurer refusing to cover OTC contraceptive options without providing a thorough explanation to verify that such a decision complies with federal law.

Recent FDA green light for the Opill sets the stage for the pill to be available at drugstores and online without a prescription, with a monthly supply costing around $20. Facing the high stakes of reproductive healthcare access, Shapiro's office emphasizes the importance of insurers stepping up. As detailed by the Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Michael Humphreys, while Congress has noted pathways to better contraceptive care, some insurers have already adopted practices that align with those goals. The Shapiro Administration aims to ensure Pennsylvanians' healthcare choices are not limited by financial or bureaucratic restraints, echoing a commitment to uphold federally mandated healthcare protections.

Shapiro's dedication to defending reproductive rights isn't new. During his tenure as Attorney General, he took these battles to the U.S. Supreme Court to safeguard birth control access under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Additionally, in an effort to amplify the available resources, Shapiro launched a website on reproductive health care outlining details on medication abortions and in-clinic procedures. Joining forces with six other governors last December, Shapiro urged HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su to ensure insurance fully covers the newly approved OTC birth control, to prevent cost as a barrier to critical healthcare. All actions combined, the Governor's intent becomes clear—as laid out in his own words—to uphold "the right of Pennsylvanians to access birth control and reproductive healthcare."