FOCUS: Women’s Health
GOAL: Get the ACCESS Bill to the floor for a vote
DEADLINE: ASAP … Trump is moving fast to dismantle women’s rights to contraceptive care. We need to stay one step ahead.
An Act Relative to Advancing Contraception Coverage and Economic Security In Our State (also known as “ACCESS” – S.499, H.536), was sponsored by Senator Harriette Chandler (1st Worcester), Representatives Pat Haddad (5th Bristol) and John Scibak (2nd Hampshire) in an effort to ensure access to affordable contraception. From the ATMA North Shore Reproductive Rights website:
Contraception is basic, preventive health care that every woman should be able to access, regardless of her economic status. Ninety-nine percent of women have used birth control at some point in their lives. Yet prohibitively expensive co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses can make it very difficult for a woman to protect her health and plan her family. This is especially true for our communities’ most vulnerable populations. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) guaranteed women access to preventive health care without co-pays, including birth control, allowing all women to access the contraceptive method that works best for them, regardless of their economic status. Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress are threatening to repeal the ACA, and with it, the added benefit of access to no-copay birth control. Even if left in place, a lack of clarity around the ACA has resulted in inconsistent implementation and, in certain cases, complete denial of coverage for certain types of birth control – even when the woman’s medical history justifies an alternative option. By requiring all Massachusetts insurance companies to cover all contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) without cost-sharing, this bill will safeguard the ACA’s promise to the 1.4 million women in Massachusetts who are counting on continued access to the birth control option that’s best for them. This bill also creates equity in coverage by eliminating cost-sharing for contraception, voluntary sterilization, and contraceptive counseling for men.
The bill had a hearing on October 3rd, and has the support of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, the ACLU, Blue Cross Blue Shield, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans (which represents 17 insurers), and many others. Healey and the ACLU are both suing the Trump administration over this issue. Despite this strong support across a variety of entities and organizations, the bill has not yet been brought to the floor for a vote.
This state bill is even more critical now that Trump has issued a rule that essentially gives employers the right to refuse coverage for contraception on the basis of religious beliefs. From a Mother Jones article:
The Trump administration officially issued a new rule Friday that weakens the Affordable Care Act’s mandate requiring employers to provide free birth control as part of health insurance plans.
The final rule resembles a draft that was leaked back in May. It vastly expands the types of employers that can opt out of birth control coverage and eliminates some of the hoops those employers have had to jump through to do so.
“With this rule in place, any employer could decide that their employees no longer have health insurance coverage for birth control,” Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in an emailed statement. “The Trump administration just took direct aim at birth control coverage for 62 million women.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
While we are glad to know that Healey and the ACLU are suing the administration, law suits can be lengthy ordeals, and the women of Massachusetts need this issue resolved now. That’s why Healey, NARAL, and others are urging constituents to call their legislators and ask that this bill be brought to the floor for a vote.
Please call and/or email the two Chairs of the Joint Committee on Financial Services:
- Senator James B. Eldredge: 617-722-1120 James.Eldridge@masenate.gov
- Representative Aaron Michlewitz: 617-722-2220 Aaron.M.Michlewitz@mahouse.gov
You can also call the vice-chairs:
- Eric P. Lesser: 617-722-1291 email@example.com
- Michael J. Finn: 617-722-2220 Michael.Finn@mahouse.gov
And, if you’ve still got time and energy, you can find contact info for other members of the committee here.
Finally, you can also, of course, call your legislators and ask them to support the bill as well.
If making calls isn’t your thing, maybe you’d like to send a letter to the editor?
One of our team members has put together a helpful summary of ACCESS talking points and posted it on Google Drive.
If you do write a letter, please also visit this spreadsheet containing a comprehensive list of MA newspapers and add your name or initials and the date you sent your letter next to the appropriate publication. (The list is broken up by counties, which you can access via tabs at the bottom of the doc.)
If you’d like some advice on how to write a great letter to the editor, check out these two articles:
And, if you are available to travel into Boston on Thursday, October 12th, you may want to participate in the MA Emergency State House Visit for Birth Control Access, hosted by Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts.
This event will take place between 10AM and 2PM:
What: Emergency State House Visit to lobby state lawmakers to support the Contraceptive ACCESS bill and protect affordable birth control access for Massachusetts residents
Where: The Massachusetts State House in Boston, Room 222 – 24 Beacon St. – Boston, MA, 02133
When: Anytime between 10 AM – 2 PM
Join us at 10 AM, 11 AM, Noon, 1PM, or for your 30 minute lunch break for a quick lobbying training. Then head to your state representative and senator’s office to raise your voice.
RSVP here: http://
ADDITIONAL READING & INFO:
- ACCESS Bill S.499
- Action Together MA, North Shore – Reproductive Rights Website
- From Boston Magazine: Massachusetts’ Free Birth Control ACCESS Bill Has Support from Insurers – It would preserve contraceptive coverage even if Trump dumps it.
- NARAL October 6 statement on the ACCESS Bill
- From Mother Jones: Trump Administration Guts Obamacare Birth Control Rule – The new rule makes it easy for virtually any employer to deny women coverage, and goes into effect immediately.
- From the Washington Post: Trump administration narrows Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate
Image Source: Adam Fagen