Marylanders will have an easier time getting birth control next year under a sweeping new law aimed at expanding and protecting people’s access to contraception.
Under the law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, insurers are required to provide most forms of birth control with no out-of-pocket costs to the patient. The law also requires insurers to cover vasectomies, or sterilization, for men without charging out-of-pocket expenses. And insurers must pay for over-the-counter birth control, including the Plan B emergency contraception, also known as the morning-after pill. The pill is taken after sexual intercourse to prevent a pregnancy.
Women will be able to get birth control pills and other contraception in six-month doses rather than having to refill a prescription every month, and they will no longer have to get pre-authorization from an insurance company to get implants and IUDs, which slowly release spermicide or hormones into the body to prevent pregnancy.
Maryland, which passed its law in 2016, is among about a dozen states that have strengthened birth control laws in the last few years in response to gaps in insurance coverage and legal and political threats to the federal Affordable Care Act, according to the National Institute for Reproductive Health, an advocacy group.
Some of the states, including Maryland, mandated the change shortly after passage of the Affordable Care Act, which required birth control coverage but had loopholes that still made it hard for people to get it. For instance, insurers could limit the variety of birth control pills they covered. The federal law only required that one type of all forms of contraceptives be covered with no co-payment. Lawsuits by opponents of the federal law and attempts by congressional Republicans to repeal it also have threatened the future of the federal law.
“On the ground, the protections were not as expansive as they could be,” said Del. Ariana B. Kelly, a Montgomery County Democrat who was lead sponsor of the bill in the Maryland House of Delegates. “We thought there was more we could do to go in the opposite direction of what we might see the federal government doing.”