Dems call for crackdown on insurers over birth control mandate

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Senate Democrats are urging the Department of Health and Human Services to take action against health insurance companies that are ignoring an ObamaCare provision that guarantees free or low-cost birth control, which they call a “troubling nationwide trend.”

A group of 38 Democrats sent a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell on Tuesday raising alarms that some insurance companies and pharmacies are making it difficult for women to access contraception.

{mosads}“We write with serious concerns that some insurers are failing to uphold the standards set in the Affordable Care Act and as a result leaving women without the health care services they are entitled to under the law,” the letter reads.

The senators urge Burwell to better inform insurance companies about the birth control rule and to push states to develop their own “plans of action for compliance.”

“The Department of Health and Human Services should be closely monitoring and ensuring compliance with the law, and working with all stakeholders to reach that end,” they wrote.

They also ask HHS to “increase consumer education and awareness of the [Affordable Care Act], including contraception” in general.     

The effort has been led by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who is ranking member of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The letter cites recent reports from nonprofit health groups like the National Women’s Law Center, the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found that compliance with the law is uneven.

Some insurance companies are still charging women out-of-pocket costs for birth control and limiting their coverage to only certain methods of birth control, according to a 22-page report from the National Women’s Law Center released last week.

In some cases, the insurance company will “even suggest that a woman switch methods if she does not want any out-of-pocket costs,” according to the report. Additionally, some companies are not covering the costs of related doctor’s appointments or are imposing age limits on coverage.

One of the country’s leading insurers groups, America’s Health Insurance Plans, has sharply disputed the claims.

“Recent reports have done a tremendous disservice to the care that millions of women are currently receiving. Health plans provide access to a full range of FDA-approved contraceptive methods as required under the ACA and have worked hard to ensure women have safe, effective treatments that meet their health needs in the most affordable way possible,” the group’s president, Karen Ignagni, wrote in a statement. 

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