Maryland Women Now Have the Easiest Access to Birth Control in the U.S., Thanks to Sweeping New Law

Personal Health

In a move advocates say places Maryland at the forefront of birth control access, Gov. Larry Hogan Tuesday signed the Contraceptive Equity Act into law, requiring insurers fully cover over-the-counter birth control options, as well as vasectomies for men. The move will eliminate monthly co-pays for women seeking birth control pills, which can range from $5 to $40, depending on the brand. Experts say high co-pays can force women to choose between the birth control brand that works best for them or one that is fully covered by insurance. 

In addition to fully covering oral contraception, the law also makes Maryland the first state to require insurers cover emergency contraception, including Plan B. The cost of emergency contraception, commonly referred to as the morning-after pill, varies nationwide, typically from $35 to $60. The act also allows women to receive up to a six-month supply of birth control and bans preauthorization requirements for IUDs and other long-term contraceptives.

In 2012, the United Nations declared birth control access a basic human right, but for many women in the United States, the high cost of co-pays and emergency contraception remains a major barrier in obtaining birth control.

“Family planning is essential for women’s rights and cost is a factor in family planning,” delegate Ariana Kelly, who sponsored the bill, said. “This legislation is going to help eliminate barriers and reduce costs for women and for men.”

Planned Parenthood lobbied in support of the bill, which expands requirements put forth in the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) requiring all insurance plans offer free birth control, but affording insurers the option to choose which brands they want to cover. Now, at least in Maryland, it’s the consumers who are empowered to choose.

“We wanted to make sure that whatever different form of birth control people were choosing, they would be covered for it,” Kelly said, noting that “it was a very difficult bill” to pass because of the immediate cost to insurance companies.

Peter L. Beilenson, the president and CEO of insurer Evergreen Health, told the Baltimore Sun the the long-term benefits far outweigh any immediate economic impact.

"It's preventive care. It's frankly not expensive at all," Beilenson said.

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