Last month, the Trump administration weakened an Obama-era mandate requiring most employers to offer copay-free insurance coverage for birth control. Now Massachusetts has become the first state to respond by safeguarding contraceptive access for its residents.
Regulations issued by the Trump administration in October allow any employer to request an exemption from the contraceptive mandate for religious or moral reasons. But a new Massachusetts law requires that insurers in the state continue providing coverage for contraception without a copay, Shira Schoenberg reported for the Springfield Republican. That means that in most cases, even if a Massachusetts employer qualified for an exemption under the federal rules, it would still be required to offer its employees contraceptive coverage. The Massachusetts law, signed on Monday by the state’s Republican governor, Charlie Baker, allows exemptions only for churches and church-controlled organizations.
In addition to insulating residents from the impact of the new Trump administration regulations, the law also protects birth control access in Massachusetts in the event of a repeal or major change to the Affordable Care Act, which could also affect the contraceptive mandate. In essence, most Massachusetts residents will be covered no matter what the federal government does.
Other states have taken action recently to shore up protections for residents’ reproductive health. A law passed in Oregon this year requires insurers to cover birth control, abortion, and a variety of other reproductive health services without a copay. A law signed in September by Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner expands that state’s Medicaid coverage for abortion.
Meanwhile, the University of Notre Dame became one of the first major employers to take advantage of the Trump administration’s new regulations, announcing in October that it would drop birth control coverage for faculty, staff, and students on its plan. However, the university soon reversed its decision, and it appears that employees and students will retain coverage.
The Massachusetts law passed both houses of the state legislature by wide margins and, according to the Republican, was supported by insurers as well as reproductive health advocates.
“The federal administration seems set on taking women backwards,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey told the newspaper. “It's wonderful to see Massachusetts make a statement that we're not going to stand for it.”