Massachusetts Senate Approves Contraceptive Proposal

July 7, 2008 - 7:02 PM

( - While the Catholic Action League calls it "deplorable public policy," the Massachusetts Senate has approved a plan that requires insurance companies to pay the costs of contraceptive devices, including birth control pills, IUDs, diaphragms and implant devices.

Advocates for the measure have long insisted women are being shortchanged, since most insurers pay the coats of male anti-impotence drugs, including Viagra, while females must pay the costs for their contraceptives.

Opponents, including insurance companies, said the bill would likely increase premiums and put health insurance out of the reach of low-income people. "Mandates, no matter how well intentioned, increase the costs of coverage and correspondingly increase the number of uninsured Americans," according to Richard Coorsh, of the Health Insurance Association of America.

"The measure would force Catholic employers and even Catholic organizations to subsidize practices condemned by their religion," said C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League. While the bill does exempt the Roman Catholic church and its affiliated organizations, many independent Catholic groups and anti-abortion agencies would be required to include contraceptive coverage in health coverage they offer employees.

Peter Ajemian, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Association of Health Maintenance Organizations, said since most Bay State HMOs already pay contraceptive costs, "We don't really see the need for legislation."

But supporters had a different view. "Today's vote marks a major milestone in our move to close the gap in health insurance offered to women in Massachusetts," said State Senator Dianne Wilkerson, a Boston Democrat.

A spokesman for the Massachusetts Coalition for Choice said the bill would be a big step in helping to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Other supporters contend the legislation is crucial to poor women, who may be unable to pay the costs of contraceptives.

The legislation now goes to the House. Republican Gov. Paul Cellucci has not yet indicated what action he will take, should the bill reach his desk.