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Does DFL’s proposed birth-control benefit conflict with Obama’s health care efforts?

Birth control pills


If adopted, the birth control coverage would be No. 65 of the state’s required health care benefits.

A DFL legislative proposal to require insurance plans to cover birth control without co-pays may run counter to President Obama’s efforts to reform health care.

As part of guidelines to help states conform to the Affordable Care Act, the Department of Health and Human Services has directed that states not add benefits as part of the “Essential Health Benefits” (EHB) of health care reform.

From a Feb. 17 bulletin from the department:

“Could a State add State-mandated benefits to the State-selected EHB benchmark plan today without having to defray the costs of those mandated benefits?

A: No. We intend to clarify that under the proposed approach any State-mandated benefits enacted after December 31, 2011 could not be part of EHB for 2014 or 2015, unless already included within the benchmark plan regardless of the mandate.”

However, state Rep. Erin Murphy of St. Paul, one of the authors of the birth control proposal, believes the proposed legislation is in line with the spirit of health care reform.

“The federal government has given the states flexibility and said contraception is prevention,” Murphy said. “Our action is in harmony and not in conflict.”

Murphy is working on the state’s response to federal health care with several outside groups, including the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, which historically takes a cautious view toward adding mandates. 

“Our policy is to ensure that small business and their employees have access to affordable and quality health care, and we need to better understand how mandates fit into this,” said Kate Johansen, the chamber’s health care lobbyist. “So before you add it, make sure that there is a benefit.”

Murphy, who introduced the measure on Tuesday, points to statistics showing that both premiums and overall health care costs go down when birth control is added as a benefit. She acknowledges, though, that adding to the state’s already-generous list of requirements for insurers will present a future problem. 

The federal government has set benchmarks for insurance mandates that may be more restrictive than Minnesota’s set of 64 now on the books.

Excerpts from Rep. Erin Murphy's Tuesday news conference.

“Minnesota will have to take a look at our benefits as we conform with the Affordable Care Act,” Murphy said. “We will have a discussion of what will be covered in Minnesota.  That is a difficult discussion ahead.”

If adopted, the birth control coverage would be No. 65 of the state’s required health care benefits.

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Comments (13)

Do your homework first!!!

Dear politicians,

Please do your homework before you suggest legislation. If you were to do your homework you would discover the following things.

1. Large MN employers would not be subject to your law as most are self insured and not subject to state law.

2. Articles in other periodicals state you are targeting this legislation at employer plans that are "grandfathered" from health reform. If you did your homework you would find that most employer plans in MN are not grandfathered for the simple reason that the benefits the feds are mandating are already mandated in MN so it makes no sense for employers to be grandfathered. Other states do not have nearly as many mandates so they have a lot more plans that chose to be grandfathered.

3. If you did your homework you would find that religious organizations are the employers that typically don't cover contraception. Your legislation would exempt those organizations from the law. Who's left?

I don't care if you are trying to mandate contraception, acne cream, or foot orthotics. Before you introduce legislation, can you PLEASE do your homework to see how many people it would affect. In this case you will find that it likely not affecting anyone (except your political aspirations)

"in line with the spirit of health care reform"

Which is to mandate that insurance plans will cover what the government tells them to cover.

Good grief, if anyone has ever wondered why health insurance promiums are through the roof in Minnesota it's because we have the most mandated coverage of any state in the country.

I thought the objective of this whole debacle was to lower health care costs? Since Obamacare was signed into law, my health insurance premiums have increased over $400 a month!

Imagine if you wanted your car insurance to pay for oil changes, tuneups, car washes and even the gasoline you burn. The policy would be so expensive you wouldn't be able to afford it. Now imagine the government mandating that auto insurance companies cover all those things. You would soon have a segment of society, probably the majority the way things are going, that would look to government to provide "free" auto insurance using the argument that no one could afford it.

Well that's what you have now with the democrats and all the mandated coverages and it's all intended to make you cry uncle so they can run your health care. And once they control your health care, they control your life, which apparently is just fine with those who fear and resent their own freedom.

Unusual article

I cannot help but feel that this brief analysis of an esoteric legal question is a set-up. The Republicans in the Legislature will automatically oppose any contraception requirement, just because. Now, they can have a respectable sounding reason for doing so.

Just because

How about because it's just $9 for a month's supply at Target. What's next, mandated coverage for pedicures? It could be considered a medical procedure you know. If you think health insurance is expensive now, wait until it's "free."

Or. . .

We could just face the fact that women's health has become the new front in the culture wars.

The new Republican misogyny (Mr. Tester, since you are on record as opposing women's suffrage, I'll put you down as QED on that one) is an ironic twist for the party that first proposed the ERA.

women's health

Let the the females of this society buy their condoms at Target and leave me out of the equation. I guess that's just too much freedom for most women to handle.

Who said anything about

Who said anything about condpms?

Women pay health insurance premiums. They're entitled to insist that prescription birth control treatments be covered as part of the service they're paying for. Regardless of who their employer is.

Women's health

Birth control pills are used for more than contraception.

I'm guessing your attitude towards women has left you out of the "equation" a lot.


Where did you get that number? I don't know of any generic birth control pill that costs $9. Here's the typical cost:

Oh, and they're not "one-size-fits-all." Not every woman can tolerate the cheapest BCP out there. The side effects if you don't get the dosage right are pretty painful.

Further, not all women take "the pill" for contraceptive purposes. It is prescribed for women suffering hormone imbalances, polycystic ovaries, endometriosis, and anemia related to menstruation.

It's pretty telling that you think birth control, or any of the problems not related to birth control that the BCP alleviates, is akin to a pedicure. Again, in light of this and your belief that it was a mistake to allow women to vote, one must wonder why anyone would allow you to speak on women's issues at all.

Thanks for voicing what seems

Thanks for voicing what seems to be unclear even to prescribing physicians. For many women, the cost of the pill is not the rock-bottom generic cost.
For women with high blood pressure or family history of stroke/aneurysm, the basic pill is dangerous. Moreover, pregnancy itself is dangerous.

I haven't seen much discussion about the coverage for other forms of birth control if no pill is safe for the woman. This IS a health issue and dismissing it with analogies to automobile coverage or the coarse "aspirin between knees" solution is puerile.

Tester and Simplot

Erin Murphy is one of the most well-informed members of the legislature and all persons who need health care should be grateful for her presence and her contributions.

The legislation at the federal and state levels that would punish poor women by withholding coverage (and therefore access) to birth control attempts to enshrine a particular religious view into law in clear violation of the First Amendment.

The notion that certain right-wing Christians are "under attack" is nonsense. It's just another effort to gain sympathy from those who should instead be recognizing that their argument is exactly backward. The religious belief that IS under attack is that those who hold a belief different from that of the majority of Americans and women everywhere somehow have a "right" to impose that view on everyone else.

My paternal grandmother died giving birth to her fifteenth child in fewer than 20 years. Is that what the religious right wants us as a country to go back to?

Ms Vetsch,In both the St.

Ms Vetsch,

In both the St. Paul and Mpls. papers Ms. Murphy admitted she did know how many people this would affect. Again, I don't care what she's trying to mandate, she should do her homework first to see how many people this would affect.

As I stated previously, this law will help no one. The federal law will help everyone in under two years. As long as she is at it she should sponsor a bill that protects the breeding grounds of sasquatches as it would affect no one either.

Forgive me, but I am missing

Forgive me, but I am missing something here. HHS has defined contraception as preventive care, so must be covered without co-pay by ACA. Why is this legislation required at the state level?