D.C. Council unanimously passed a bill requiring insurers to provide coverage for women’s preventive health care services and products at no cost to employees.

Introduced by Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen, the Defending Access to Women’s Health Care Services Amendment Act of 2018 was signed into law by Mayor Muriel Bowser on Jan. 31, in the wake of multiple attempts by the federal government to repeal and replace or otherwise undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“Today, the District of Columbia stands united as Mayor Bowser signs a bill passed unanimously by the Council to defend women’s access to basic and critical health care services under the Affordable Care Act,” Allen said. “The bill goes even further in expanding access by allowing pharmacists to prescribe and dispense certain forms of birth control directly — a smart change to make it easier to obtain and re-fill birth control conveniently. These benefits will be readily available and covered at no cost.”

Currently, the services and products protected by the act are required by ACA guidelines, Allen said in a statement.

Should these ACA guidelines change, the District’s new legislation ensures that the services and products will still be covered for women in Washington, D.C., where approximately 96 percent of residents are covered by health insurance.

“We know the current White House and Congress don’t care if a woman is forced to pay more or go without basic health care because she can’t afford it,” Allen said. “Here in the District of Columbia, today’s signing ensures we’re not going backward. I am incredibly proud to have moved this through the Council with my colleagues, and for the support and partnership with so many of our health care providers.”

Signing the bill at Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, D.C., Bowser said that preventive care saves lives and reduces health care costs.

“From extending open enrollment to creating forward-thinking legislation that keeps Washingtonians safe from detrimental health care reforms, in Washington, D.C., we are committed to ensuring all residents are able to get the care and services they need to thrive and get on pathways to the middle class,” she said.

The Defending Access to Women’s Health Care Services Amendment Act of 2018 also requires insurance providers and health insurance coverage through Medicaid or the D.C. Healthcare Alliance to provide coverage for contraceptives, over-the-counter contraceptives and contraceptives prescribed and dispensed by a pharmacist without any cost-sharing requirements.

The law also allows pharmacists to prescribe birth control meeting federal requirements for providing certain employers with a religious exemption or accommodation from contraceptive products and services.

“While at the federal level, and in many states across the country, we have seen a rollback of reproductive rights, here in D.C., we are moving forward,” said Dr. Laura Meyers, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, DC Action Fund. “Any measure that helps reduce unintended pregnancy and gives women more options to access birth control is good for women, good for business and good for the health of the District of Columbia.”

Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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