Alaska Legislature passes 12-month contraceptive insurance coverage bill

By

Maddie McCarthy

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The Alaska Legislature passed a bill that aims to extend contraceptive insurance coverage to 12 months in the state. 

House Bill 17—sponsored by Rep. Ashley Carrick (D-Fairbanks)—passed in the House in March, and was approved by the Senate Thursday. It now awaits the governor’s signature for implementation.

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HB 17 cosponsor Sen. Lӧki Tobin (D-Anchorage) said the bill would expand both private and public insurance coverage for already-prescribed contraceptives across the state. 

“It is a requirement under this legislation to provide up to 12 months of contraception coverage at a time,” Tobin said during HB 17’s third Senate reading. “The bill requires insurers to provide that preventative form of contraception to covered individuals, including long-acting reversible contraception.”

Currently, insurers are required to cover one to three months’ worth of contraceptives at a time. However, Alaska’s geography can make it difficult for some people to access contraception on a regular basis.

“[HB 17] is incredibly important because across our state we have folks who are unable to get to a pharmacy when they may need to find a refill. We have folks who go off on fishing boats, who spend time on the North Slope, who are in communities that don’t have consistent mail access. Additionally, we have folks who go off to fish camp in the summer and may need their particular contraception.”

— Tobin

Tobin said HB 17 could help people in relationships in which their partner is using contraceptives to control them. The University of Anchorage Justice Center reports that many Alaskan women have experienced some form of intimate partner abuse where their actions were controlled. This includes controlling their reproductive health. The bill would remove the need for regular trips to a pharmacy, Tobin said, which could help prevent or alleviate the impact of reproductive control.

HB 17 went through many changes since it was introduced at the start of the 33rd legislative session, Tobin said. One change added provisions to accommodate people’s religious beliefs. The bill now exempts certain religious employers that meet specific requirements from implementing the changes required under the bill.

“This allows for consistent contraceptive coverage while also understanding folks who have religious objections,” Tobin said.

The Senate Health and Social Services Committee added language to clarify the specifics of the religious exemption, Tobin said. The legislators also removed all references of emergency contraception from the bill, and included language to ensure HB 17 aligns with the Affordable Care Act.

HB 17 will allow insurers the ability to incentivize their providers to prescribe generic and low-cost contraceptives, Tobin said. It has no fiscal note, and awaits transmission to Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

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