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Martinez: contraceptive coverage should be women's choice, not employer (AUDIO)

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In the wake of lawsuits challenging a federal contraception coverage mandate, Senator Iris Y. Martinez has proposed asking voters whether Illinois should continue to require insurance companies to include birth control coverage in their prescription plans. Martinez’s resolution, which would put the non-binding women’s health referendum on the ballot this November, has cleared the Senate and awaits a vote in the House.

“Illinois law already protects a woman’s ability to access contraception through her insurance policy, but basic women’s health care is now under attack in our courts,” Martinez said. “In case the contraception provision of the Affordable Care Act is overturned and women in Illinois are forced to rely only on state-level protections, it’s important that we know where voters stand.”

Currently, any group or individual health insurance plan in Illinois that offers prescription drug coverage must cover all outpatient contraceptive services, drugs and devices with the same co-insurance, deductibles and co-payments that apply to other prescriptions. Beginning in 2012, federal law kicked in; under the Affordable Care Act, most insurance plans must provide contraception coverage as an essential health benefit, meaning that most types of birth control are not subject to deductibles or co-payments.

Some employers, including the craft store Hobby Lobby, have filed suit against the requirement, arguing that subsidizing plans that cover contraception violates the religious beliefs of their owners. If Hobby Lobby’s position prevails, Illinois would have the opportunity to return to the drawing board to determine if its policies are sufficient to protect access to a health care product used at least once by 99 percent of sexually active women between the ages of 15 and 44.

“The women’s health referendum will allow voters to make their voices heard on a timely and pressing issue so that Illinois can continue to uphold its commitment to equal health care access and women’s rights,” said Martinez.

To listen to Martinez' comments on the floor click below: