BOSTON –Today, Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) and his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate unanimously voted to enact H.4009, An Act advancing contraceptive coverage and economic security in our state, better known as the ACCESS Bill. In October, the bill was restructured with a compromise between legislators, the Coalition for Choice, and a group of Massachusetts insurance carriers – who now vocally support the legislation.
Filed in early January, the ACCESS Bill was viewed as a both a safeguard and a worst-case-scenario means to shield Massachusetts women from regressive healthcare-policy rollbacks at the federal level. The legislation simultaneously expands upon a 2006 Massachusetts contraceptive-coverage mandate and upon co-pay free contraceptive-coverage provisions enacted under the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
A sense of urgency to pass the ACCESS Bill was renewed with Congress’ summertime attempts to repeal the ACA, and was even further stirred by the Trump Administration’s contraceptive-coverage rollback in early October. The Senate has included an emergency preamble so that these changes are effective immediately. Health plans have six months to comply with the new mandates.
“The ACCESS Bill serves as both a protection and an expansion of women’s healthcare initiatives,” said Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester). “Despite regressive rollbacks in Washington by Congress and the Trump Administration, the Massachusetts Legislature knows the difference between political-platitudes and actually helping people. I hope this can serve as a model to the country. After all, fifty-percent of this nation is female. We can’t just go ignoring their needs.”
“I am proud of the action my colleagues and I have taken on this bipartisan bill to ensure that every woman in the Commonwealth has equal access to contraceptive coverage,” said Senator DiDomenico. “With so much that remains uncertain regarding the future of health care access in our country, women and families in Massachusetts can now be certain that contraception will be both accessible and affordable.”
“While the Trump Administration and Congress are attacking women’s healthcare and access to contraception, Massachusetts is re-asserting our values by standing up for our mothers, daughters, friends and neighbors by ensuring access to no-pay contraception,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst).
The ACCESS Bill mandates that more options, like IUDs, be covered co-pay free. It also allows women to purchase full-year supplies of their medication in just one pharmacy visit. A mandatory benefit review conducted by the Massachusetts Center for Health Information Analysis (CHIA) estimated meager premium hikes as a result of the expanded mandate. Individuals might see increases in the range of $.07 – $.20 on their monthly premiums over five years.
However, according to a 2017 Health Policy Commission report and a 2012 federal Health and Human Services publication, the cost of co-pay free contraception is mitigated by cost savings derived from preventing unintended pregnancies.The HHS report defines the cost of co-pay free contraception as “close to zero.”
“Reliable and free access to contraception has been proven to improve women's health, and promote economic security for all families, and it must be a guaranteed right for all Mass residents,” said Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Financial Services. “I want to thank Majority Leader Harriette Chandler for her leadership in filing this important bill, and Senate President Stan Rosenberg and Senate Ways and Means Chair Karen Spilka for ensuring that access to birth control is the law of the land in Massachusetts.”
“There shouldn’t be any uncertainty in Massachusetts about access to contraception, and this legislation serves to ensure that in our Commonwealth it will be available and affordable regardless of any changes in federal policy,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester).
The benefits of contraceptive care are immense and well documented. As cited in the legislation’s CHIA review, benefits of contraception include: “improved women’s health and well-being, reduced maternal mortality, health benefits for mother and child associated with spacing pregnancy, female workforce engagement, and economic self-sufficiency.”
The bill now moves to the Governor’s desk for approval.