Vermont bill mandates coverage for vasectomies, other birth control

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont is poised to become the first state to require public and private health insurance to cover vasectomies without copays and deductibles under a bill Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin signed into law Monday.

The legislation inserts into state law mandates from the federal Affordable Care Act but goes beyond them to include additional birth control methods, such as vasectomies.

Shumlin, surrounded by lawmakers who supported the bill and officials with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, lamented moves elsewhere in the country to curtail birth control.

“At a time when our country is headed in the wrong direction, I’m proud to say Vermont continues to head in the right direction,” Shumlin said.

The regional Planned Parenthood president, Meagan Gallagher, added, “The ability to plan, prevent and space pregnancies directly benefits women, men, children and society through increased educational and economic opportunities for women, healthier babies, more stable families, and, as a result, a reduced taxpayer burden.”

America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group, took a less positive view.

“We opposed the provision, in part because the bill failed to address the underlying prices charged for the services which is the what contributes to higher deductibles and co-pays for consumers,” spokeswoman Clare Krusing said in an email.

Maryland’s governor signed similar legislation earlier this month, but it doesn’t take effect until 2018. Key provisions of Vermont’s bill take effect in October. Maryland’s bill does one thing Vermont’s bill doesn’t: It provides coverage of emergency contraceptives like the Plan B morning-after pill.

California preceded Vermont and Maryland with state guarantees for birth control coverage, but California did not include vasectomies, said Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst with the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which follows reproductive health issues and laws.

Vermont’s and Maryland’s laws provide a patient with oral contraceptives for minimum periods of time with just one visit to a doctor. In Vermont it’s 12 months, and in Maryland it’s six, Nash said.

Vermont is increasing reimbursement rates to health providers to encourage them to provide patients with long-acting reversible contraceptives, like the intrauterine device.

Vasectomies may be new ground, but Rep. Chris Pearson, a Vermont Progressive Party member from Burlington, said coverage for them makes sense to him. He said he had a vasectomy more than two years ago after he and his wife had a second child.

“Two’s enough, and that had been our goal,” he said. “She was healthy and wonderful, and we said, ‘All right, let’s take care of this.'”

He said he thinks vasectomies are “a really good solution for families.”

Backers of the law say many states have been slow to enforce the birth control requirements of the Affordable Care Act, requiring insurance companies, for example, to cover more expensive birth control methods like the IUD.

They note, too, that if a new administration and Congress repeal the ACA, the state laws would remain in effect.

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