The Biden administration issued guidance on Thursday reminding health insurers that they must comply with the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate, which guarantees coverage of contraceptives at no additional cost. The administration said it will take enforcement actions if insurers fail to comply.
In a statement on Thursday, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said the latest guidance on birth control coverage — which was jointly released by the HHS, Labor and Treasury departments — comes amid “troubling reports” that health plans and insurers are not complying with the law.
“We expect them to remove impermissible barriers and ensure individuals have access to the contraceptive coverage they need,” Walsh said. “If plans and issuers are not complying with the law, we will take enforcement action to ensure that participants receive this coverage, again with no cost sharing.”
CMS administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure noted that the guidance also reminds employer-sponsored health plans and health insurance issuers that they are obligated to provide the “full range” of contraceptives approved by the FDA to their employees under the ACA, which include birth control pills, rings, IUDs, emergency contraception (such as Plan B), diaphragms and sponges.
The latest guidance comes weeks after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sent memos to tens of thousands of pharmacies nationwide to warn that the refusal to fill abortion or contraception care medications prescriptions goes against federal law.
The HHS memo earlier this month was issued days after it sent a letter to health care providers informing them that they are federally required to offer abortion services if the pregnant person’s life is at risk, saying federal law preempts state laws or mandates that have banned the procedure in the wake of the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade last month.
It also comes as congressional Democrats demand that the federal government take more action to ensure access to contraceptives, following Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling last month, which overturned Roe. In his concurring opinion, Thomas outright said the high court should revisit other landmark privacy-rights cases such as protections for same-sex marriage and contraception access.
Congressional Democrats have also made efforts to ensure access to contraception.
Earlier this month, the House voted 228-195 to codify federal protections for contraception access into law, with just eight Republicans joining Democrats on the issue.
On Wednesday, Senate Democrats attempted to pass the Right of Contraception Act following the House’s passage of its companion measure. Democrats asked for unanimous consent to pass the legislation, but that effort was blocked after Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) objected to the request.