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Contraceptive coverage mandated in Washington

Women who have been denied insurance coverage of contraceptives have reason to celebrate after a new rule kicked in this January that requires all licensed health insurers in Washington to cover all FDA-approved prescription contraceptive devices and drugs if they cover other prescription drugs.

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Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler says this rule eliminates a form of sex discrimination in health insurance that has long forced women of reproductive age to spend approximately 68 percent more in out-of-pocket health care costs than men.

The new rule covers oral contraceptives, intrauterine devices (IUDs), diaphragms, and the "morning after" pill.

Exempt from the rule are health insurance plans that don't offer prescription drug coverage and self-insured health plans, which are governed by ERISA (the federal Employee Retirement income Security Act), not by state laws.

In 1998, Congress ruled that all health insurance plans for federal employees must cover prescription contraceptives. Since then, a body of case law has been mounting that says the omission of contraceptive coverage is unlawful in some cases.

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