Governor signs bill mandating free birth control

Gov. Charlie Baker

BOSTON — Massachusetts women are guaranteed free birth control coverage under legislation signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday.

The bill mandates coverage without co-pays for emergency contraception and for all FDA-approved methods of birth control. Insurers are also required to cover a year’s supply of birth control, after an initial three-month prescription.

Baker, a Republican, said the new law means no woman “will have to worry about whether or not her health care services and rights are being protected.”

“This is exactly the sort of opportunity where Massachusetts has a chance to send a message to other parts of the country about how we think and feel about this issue,” he said at a signing ceremony at the Statehouse.

The federal Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover all methods of birth control approved by the Food and Drug Administration, with no co-payment or co-insurance when provided in-network. The state’s health care law, which went into effect in 2006, doesn’t include such a provision.

Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, president of Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, called the new law “a monumental victory for Massachusetts women and families.”

“No matter who they are or where they live, everyone deserves the ability to stay healthy, plan their families, and focus on their futures,” she said.

“While millions of women nationwide must continue to worry their bosses will take away their birth control access, our state Legislature and governor have put these worries to rest here, prioritizing people’s wellbeing and health over D.C. politics,” she added.

The new mandate, backed by the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, comes amid uncertainty over women’s reproductive rights in Washington.

Two weeks ago, President Donald Trump issued an executive order rolling back provisions of former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law that required most companies to cover birth control for women at no additional cost. The move allows employers claiming religious or moral objections to opt out of providing the coverage.

Attorney General Maura Healey has filed a legal challenge to the decision, but the outcome is still pending. A federal judge declined to block the executive order from going into effect.

“While the Trump administration and an anti-choice Congress continue to work to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and its guarantee of copay-free contraception, the Massachusetts Legislature and governor have taken a firm stand in favor of women’s reproductive freedom,” Rebecca Hart-Holder, executive director for NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, said in a statement.

“Now, Massachusetts law ensures that most Bay Staters can access the form of contraception that works best for them regardless of federal attacks on the ACA,” she said.

More than 1.4 million women in the state now have access to birth control with no out-of-pocket costs through the Affordable Care Act.

Recent studies show the federal birth control mandate, in place since 2013, has increased use of contraception and reduced out-of-pocket medical costs, particularly for long-acting methods such as intrauterine devices.

Twenty-eight states — including California, Maryland and Vermont — require insurers to provide low- or no-cost coverage of FDA-approved contraceptives, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

A report by the Center for Health Information and Analysis estimates the state’s new mandate will cost individuals 7 to 20 cents more per month over the next five years. That’s lower than a previous estimate putting the increase at 15 to 24 cents.

Mandating coverage is expected to raise overall health care spending by about $5.3 million over a five-year period, according to the report, but individual costs depend on a variety of factors. Some people could see even larger increases.

Supporters of the bill say the report doesn’t account for lowered costs from fewer pregnancies, miscarriages and abortions due to improved contraception.

Healey, a Democrat, said the changes are an example of bipartisan cooperation at a time when the federal government “seems intent on taking women backwards.”

“This is about the fact that every woman should have access to affordable and reliable health services, including birth control,” she said at Monday’s bill signing. “It’s a critical issue, not just for women, but for families.”

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at


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