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Lawmakers tout free birth control under new law

Some Bay Area lawmakers are highlighting the fact that effective today, the Affordable Care Act requires insurers to provide free, guaranteed preventative health care for women including contraception, HPV and HIV testing, domestic violence screening, breastfeeding support and supplies and more.

“Beginning today, 47 million women across the country, including five million women in California, will now receive important preventive services without co-pay because of the new healthcare law,” Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, said in a news release. “With these new provisions, women will no longer need to forgo preventive services to stay healthy, catch potentially life-threatening illnesses earlier, and protect against prohibitive medical costs.”

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, spoke about it on the House floor:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius co-authored an opinion piece in today’s edition of USA Today saying women no longer must choose between seeing a doctor for prevenative care and putting food on the table for their families.

“(U)nder the health care law, we’re banning discrimination against women in the insurance market. In 2014, it will be illegal to deny coverage to someone because of her health status. And it will also be illegal to charge women more than men just because they’re women. In other words, being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing condition,” they wrote. “For too long, insurance companies stacked the deck against women, forcing us to pay more for coverage that didn’t meet our needs. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, a new day for women’s health has arrived.”

The California Family Health Council estimates 99 percent of American women have used contraception at some point in their lives, despite an average out-of-pocket cost of $600 per year. The money women will save on birth control each year is equal to five weeks of groceries for a family of four, nine tanks of gas in a minivan, or one semester of college textbooks, the council says.

“The policy being implemented today is a huge step forward for women’s health. The Obama Administration should be applauded for maintaining its commitment to breaking down barriers to accessing critical preventive services for women like contraception,” council president and CEO Julie Rabinovitz said in a news release. “Although there remain legal and political challenges to this new policy, these new benefits will make a real difference in the lives of women and families across the state and country.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.