By Amelia Heyman
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – The Virginia Senate on Thursday passed legislation allowing pharmacists to provide women a full year of birth control pills at once if prescribed by a doctor.
HB 2267, was sponsored by Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Springfield. The bill, titled the Birth Control Access Act, will now be sent to Gov. Terry McAuliffe to be signed into law.
Women's right activists praised the measure's passage. Many insurance policies currently limit women to a 90-day supply of birth control pills.
"Passing the Birth Control Access Act is a huge victory for women. Women lead busy lives, and going back and forth to the pharmacy every few weeks to get the birth control they need isn't necessary, so we're thrilled that the General Assembly has passed this common-sense solution," said Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia. "Everyone in a community benefits when women are able to take control of their own bodies, and passing this bill is a step in the right direction."
Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam agreed.
"I applaud the Senate for supporting expanded access to contraception for Virginia women. Extending oral contraceptive prescriptions to 12 months will ensure that more women have reliable access to reproductive health care," Northam said.
"As a doctor, I know that having prescription options is important for the best patient care. Moving forward, I would urge members of the General Assembly to support measures to promote access to the full-range of reproductive health care services for all Virginia women."
The bill states, "Any health benefit plan that is amended, renewed, or delivered on or after January 1, 2018, that provides coverage for hormonal contraceptives shall cover up to a 12-month supply of hormonal contraceptives when dispensed or furnished at one time for a covered person by a provider or pharmacy or at a location licensed or otherwise authorized to dispense drugs or supplies."
The bill – which had been approved by the House, 94-1, on Feb. 7 – passed the Senate on a vote of 34-6.
Doug Gray, executive director of the Virginia Association of Health Plans, said current insurance policies allow 90 days' worth of prescription to be mailed at a time. People can check an "automatic refill" box and automatically receive a refill as a prescription starts to run out.
The existing law for prescription contraceptives does not specify the amount that can be prescribed at once. Filler-Corn's bill would solve that vagueness.
"We applaud the bipartisan vote," said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. "It's a rare moment in Richmond when a pro-choice, proactive women's health bill is advanced on a bipartisan basis."
Research has shown that women who receive a one-year supply of oral contraceptives are more likely to continuously and consistently use contraceptives than women who get only a one- or three-month supply.
Studies show that unintended pregnancy is reduced by 30 percent and abortion is reduced by 46 percent when women have access to a full year's supply of birth control, according to Progress Virginia.
The group noted that the average cost to an insurer of birth control for one year is $160-$600. A birth can cost an insurer between $18,000 and $28,000.