Balancing the gender scales in prescription drug coverage

July 1, 1997

Pharmaceutical Representative

Do women unfairly pay more for prescriptions? According to Senators Olympia Snow (R-ME) and Harry Reid (D-NV), who introduced the Equity in Prescription Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage Act, they do.

Do women unfairly pay more for prescriptions? According to Senators Olympia Snow (R-ME) and Harry Reid (D-NV), who introduced the Equity in Prescription Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage Act, they do.

The cost of birth control pills is not covered by many large group insurance plans. As a result, women of reproductive age spend 63% more than men on out-of-pocket health costs, said Snow. And that, she insisted, is not fair.

"It is simply not right that while the vast majority of insurers cover prescription drugs, half of large group plans exclude coverage of contraceptives," she said. "...Only one-third cover oral contraceptives."

If passed, the bipartisan bill would prohibit plans offering drug coverage from excluding or restricting benefits for FDA-approved prescription contraceptive drugs or devices. The plans would be required to cover outpatient contraceptive services if they provide benefits coverage for other outpatient services.

In addition, health plans could only impose cost-sharing and deductible requirements for contraceptives or outpatient contraceptive services equal to those imposed for other prescription or outpatient benefits.

The bill, which would take effect on January 1, 1998, would be passed as an amendment to ERISA. PR