Washington, D.C.— Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper introduced the Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act to eliminate copayments for contraception covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Contraception is available without copays for civilians via the Affordable Care Act and for active duty military through TRICARE, but VA healthcare only waives contraception copays for a limited number of veterans.
“For women across our country, contraception is essential health care,” said Bennet. “But right now, many veterans enrolled in the VA health care system have to contend with out-of-pocket costs for contraception that women who are enrolled in other health care plans do not have to face. Our bipartisan bill would fix this inequity to increase access to contraception for women who have served our nation.”
“This bipartisan bill will ensure veterans can access the same no-cost contraception benefit available to everyone else,” said Hickenlooper. “Contraception is essential health care and veterans who fought for our freedom shouldn’t pay extra for it.”
Under current law, only a restricted group of veterans, including 50 percent disabled veterans and veterans below specific income levels, are exempt from copayments for contraception. This legislation will eliminate out-of-pocket costs levied against countless veterans, including women who make up the fastest growing group of veterans enrolling in the VA healthcare system.
The legislation was originally authored by U.S. Representative Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) and passed the U.S. House of Representatives in June with a bipartisan vote of 245-181.
In addition to Bennet and Hickenlooper, this bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
The bill is also endorsed by: the Center for Reproductive Rights, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Council of Jewish Women, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, National Women's Health Network, National Women's Law Center, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, American Academy of Nursing, American College of Nurse-Midwives, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, National Council of Jewish Women, National Women's Health Network, and the National Women's Law Center.
The bill text is available HERE.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, Bennet and Hickenlooper remain committed to protecting reproductive rights. Earlier this week, Bennet and Hickenlooper joined a group of their colleagues to introduce the Let Doctors Provide Reproductive Health Care Act, a bill to protect doctors providing legal abortion care to out-of-state patients. Senate Republicans blocked the bill’s passage on the Senate floor.
In July 2022, Bennet and Hickenlooper joined their Democratic colleagues urging the VA to begin a rulemaking process to allow the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to provide abortions. Last month, Bennet and Hickenlooper joined their Democratic colleagues in introducing legislation to protect the right of individuals to cross state lines for reproductive health care. Bennet and Hickenlooper spoke on the Senate floor in support of this effort.
Bennet and Hickenlooper also introduced legislation to protect and improve access to critical reproductive health care services such as birth control, cancer screenings, and other treatments by providing a strong and consistent funding source for the Title X Family Planning Program. Bennet and U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) called on the Biden Administration to update the Privacy Rule under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to protect the privacy of patients who receive abortions from law enforcement agencies. In June, Bennet and Hickenlooper joined their colleagues in urging the Department of Defense (DoD) to take immediate steps to support and protect service members seeking abortion services.