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Times-Union: N.Y. reps urge keeping women’s health mandates under Obamacare

By Claire Hughes, 1/11/17

A state legislative proposal requiring health insurers in New York to cover contraception without co-payments, now mandated by Obamacare, has been reintroduced by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as Republicans in Congress seek to undo the federal law.

Also Wednesday, in Washington U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, urged federal lawmakers to keep the no-cost contraceptive provisions of the law, formally the Affordable Care Act, along with access to mammograms and cervical cancer screenings. Gillibrand has filed an amendment to the federal 2017 budget that would retain these parts of the law.

“The election in November wasn’t about women’s health care,” Gillibrand said on the Senate floor. “No one came to Congress with a mandate to take away women’s access to mammograms and cancer screenings.”

President-elect Donald J. Trump repeatedly promised to “repeal and replace” Obamacare during his campaign.

Schneiderman’s proposal, the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act of 2017, would codify in state law Obamacare provisions that require health insurers to offer contraception with no out-of-pocket cost and would also expand guarantees to include coverage of sterilization procedures for both men and women, and emergency contraception obtainable even without a prescription.

The legislation, first introduced last year, would apply to all health insurance plans that are not self-insured, whether provided by employers or through the state’s Obamacare exchange.

“With the Affordable Care Act under attack in Washington, it’s all the more critical that New York act now to protect these rights,” Schneiderman said.

The New York Health Plan Association, however, said the expanded coverage proposed by Schneiderman will drive up costs. Health insurers are concerned over how the proposal would be put into effect, said Leslie Moran, a spokeswoman for the insurance industry group.

If a year’s worth of birth control pills are covered, for instance, and within a couple of months someone develops a side effect, must the insurer then cover another year’s worth of an alternative pill?

Schneiderman’s bill already has a sponsor in the Assembly, and must also be adopted by a lawmaker in the Senate to move forward. Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, said the Assembly would be “proud” to pass the legislation, as it did last year.

The bill did not advance in the Senate last year. But Health Committee Chair Kemp Hannon, a Long Island Republican, said he expects state senators to support provisions of the bill this year, depending on what action Congress takes on the Affordable Care Act.