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STATE POLITICS & POLICY | Ore. Laws Requiring Contraceptive Coverage, Accommodations for Breast-Feeding Women Go Into Effect

STATE POLITICS & POLICY | Ore. Laws Requiring Contraceptive Coverage, Accommodations for Breast-Feeding Women Go Into Effect
[Jan. 3, 2008]

An Oregon law that requires all health insurance plans in the state that provide prescription drug coverage to include coverage for prescription contraceptives went into effect on Tuesday, the Oregonian reports (Green, Oregonian, 1/1). About half of insurers in the state do not cover prescription contraceptives. The measure, which Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) signed into law in May 2007, also requires hospitals to inform sexual assault survivors about emergency contraception and make it available upon request. Religious employers are exempt from the law (Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 6/7/07).

According to the Oregonian, the contraceptive coverage law could affect about 1.4 million people in the state who are covered by private insurance. Public employees and low-income people covered by the Oregon Health Plan already receive coverage for contraceptives. The state Insurance Division has not estimated the cost of the law to private insurance companies, according to a spokesperson.

Nancy Bennett, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the Columbia/Willamette, said her group has been supporting mandated insurance coverage for contraceptives since 1993. Access to birth control is "just basic health care for women," Bennett said, adding, "Women are paying way more out of pocket for their health care than they should be." State Sen. Larry George (R), who voted against the law, has said the measure could increase health care costs. The health insurance industry did not lobby actively against the measure, according to the Oregonian. About half of U.S. states require insurance companies to include contraception in prescription drug plans, according to Bennett.

Several other health-related laws also went into effect on Tuesday, including a law that requires employers in the state to make accommodations for working women who are breast-feeding (Oregonian, 1/1). The law requires employers with 25 or more workers to provide breast-feeding women with a private space and at least 30 minutes for every four hours of work to pump breastmilk. Women who breast-feed are covered under the law until their child is 18 months old. The law does not require the breaks to be paid. Employers who violate the law could face civil fines of up to $1,000 (Parker, Oregonian, 1/2).