Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has issued a new agency rule that will require all licensed health insurance companies in Washington to cover all FDA-approved prescription contraceptive devices and drugs if they cover other prescription drugs. Effective Jan. 1, 2002, this rule eliminates a form of sex discrimination in the administration of health benefits that has long forced women of reproductive age to spend approximately 68 percent more in out-of-pocket health care costs than men. The rule came in large part from the advocacy work of Pro-Choice Washington, a coalition of which the ACLU is a founding member.
The ACLU recommended specific language changes to tighten up loopholes that could have allowed insurance companies to skirt the new requirements. With similar comments from other pro-choice groups, the Insurance Commissioner agreed to nearly all of the suggested improvements.
Next year Kreidler is expected to issue another rule requiring health plans to cover pregnancy and pregnancy-related services, including abortion. The ACLU will continue to work with our pro-choice allies and the Insurance Commissioner's office to make this happen.
The ACLU continues its lawsuit against the state's largest insurer, Regence BlueShield, for failing to provide an employee health plan that covers prescription contraceptives. The ACLU and the Washington National Abortion Rights Action League filed the class-action lawsuit in July, charging the insurance carrier with discriminating against women by excluding from coverage prescriptions that are essential to women.
"We are pleased with the Commissioner's rule. It bolsters our case in federal court that seeks to obtain a definitive ruling on the issue. We want to secure equitable coverage for women's health care as a matter of law regardless of who serves as Insurance Commissioner," said ACLU Executive Director Kathleen Taylor.