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July 7, 2003

Blagojevich approves key advance in women’s health
Signs new law ensuring equity in contraceptive coverage

CHICAGO – Flanked by legislators and women’s health advocates at Chicago’s Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation marking a major step forward for women’s health in Illinois.  The new law requires insurance providers that cover prescription drugs to also cover all FDA approved contraceptive drugs and devices.


"For the first time in our state’s history, contraceptive prescriptions for women will be paid for by their insurance companies, instead of out of their own pockets.  For far too long, when it comes to issues of reproductive health care, women have not received the same treatment as men.  For example, under the current law, if a woman chooses to use birth control, she has to pay for it herself.   But with men, that's not the case.  A man taking Viagra is reimbursed by his health insurer.   It’s just fundamentally unfair when insurers reimburse men who use Viagra, but deny coverage to women who use birth control.  With this new law, that’s about to change," Blagojevich said.


House Bill 211, sponsored by state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, and state Sen. Iris Martinez, D-Chicago, prohibits insurance companies that already cover prescription drugs and devices from excluding coverage for contraceptives.  In addition, the bill requires plans that cover outpatient medical services to also cover contraceptive services such as consultations, examinations and procedures related to pregnancy prevention.  The new law does not extend to abortion services.


“Contraceptive coverage is a matter of basic fairness,” Feigenholtz said.  “Women pay significantly more for health care than men.  But today we’re taking an important step to ending this inequity.”


Women of reproductive age currently spend 68 percent more in out-of-pocket health care costs than men, due in large part to the cost of reproductive health drugs and services.  A prescription for an oral contraceptive costs approximately $30 a month, or $360 a year.


In contrast, employers can save money by providing contraceptive coverage and avoiding high costs associated with unplanned pregnancies.  The Washington Business Group on Health conducted a study and found that not providing coverage for contraceptives can cost employers 15 percent to 17 percent more than providing coverage.


“Contraceptives have a proven track record of enhancing women’s health, preventing unintended pregnancies and protecting against conditions like pelvic inflammation disease and osteoporosis,” Martinez pointed out.


Illinois becomes the 20th state to require private insurers to provide contraceptive equity.


“Finally, women in Illinois will be able to afford to make responsible family planning decisions.  We’re grateful to Governor Blagojevich for signing this long-overdue measure into law, and to the legislators who have worked so hard to send the measure to the governor’s desk,” said Pam Sutherland, President and CEO of Illinois Planned Parenthood Council.

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