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Governor Cuomo Announces Decisive Actions to Secure Access to Reproductive Health Services in New York

For Immediate Release: 1/21/2017
GOVERNOR ANDREW M. CUOMO

Governor Cuomo Announces Decisive Actions to Secure Access to Reproductive Health Services in New York

Protects Cost-Free Access to Contraception
Requires Health Insurers to Cover All Medically-Necessary Abortion Services Without Co-Pays, Coinsurance, or Deductibles
New State Regulatory Actions Available Here and Here
Letter Enforces Obligation of Health Insurers to Provide Full and Accurate Information About Coverage
Actions Coincide with 44th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Women’s Marches Across New York
Next Step of New York’s Promise to Women: Ever Upward – More Information Available Here

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a series of actions to firmly secure access to reproductive rights in New York State. Through regulatory action, the State will ensure that contraceptive drugs and devices are covered by commercial health insurance policies without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles regardless of the future of the Affordable Care Act; contraceptives are available in amounts exceeding one month’s supply at a time; and all medically necessary abortion services are covered by commercial health insurance policies without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles.

The announcement coincides with today’s Women’s Marches in Washington D.C., across New York State and across the country, as well as the 44th anniversary of the landmark United States Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade. The announcement also marks the next step in “New York’s Promise to Women: Ever Upward,” a series of actions taken by Governor Cuomo to support women’s rights.

“Women deserve to make a fair wage and the same salary as any man, they deserve to work in an office free of sexual harassment, they deserve comprehensive paid family leave, and they deserve control over their health and reproductive decisions,” Governor Cuomo said. “These regulatory actions will help ensure that whatever happens at the federal level, women in our state will have cost-free access to reproductive health care and we hope these actions serve as a model for equality across the nation.”

As part of the actions announced today by Governor Cuomo, the Department of Financial Services will mandate that health insurers:

– Provide coverage for all contraceptive drugs and devices and cover at least one form of contraception in each of the FDA-approved contraceptive delivery methods without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles, regardless of the future of the Affordable Care Act.
– Provide coverage for the dispensing of an initial three-month supply of a contraceptive to an insured person. For subsequent dispensing of the same contraceptive prescribed by the same health care provider and covered under the same policy or renewal, an insurer must allow coverage for the dispensing of the entire prescribed contraceptive supply, up to 12 months, at the same time.
– Provide coverage for abortion services that are medically necessary without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles (unless the plan is a high deductible plan).
– Provide full and accurate information about coverage, enforced in a letter available here.

Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo said, “There has never been a more critical time than now to ensure access to the reproductive health services that New York women require. DFS will take all necessary actions to make sure that insurers cover abortions and contraceptives with no copayments, deductibles or any out-of-pocket costs. New York will not tolerate any impediments or impairments of women’s rights and access to reproductive health care.”

New York law prohibits an insurer from limiting or excluding coverage by type of illness or medical condition. New York law also mandates coverage for all surgical procedures that are medically necessary, without exclusion for abortion services. New York law further prevents an insurer from excluding coverage for non-surgical abortions. In addition, New York law requires that health insurers provide coverage for contraceptives and preventive care and screenings without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles. The law also requires that health insurers provide consumers with full and accurate information about their coverage.

The Department of Financial Services regulation with respect to abortion services includes an exemption for religious employers, while mandating that every insured has the same rights to coverage without additional payment.

The Department of Financial Services regulates health insurers in New York. Under New York Insurance Law, the Superintendent is authorized to issue regulations setting the minimum standards for health insurance policies issued in New York. Today’s actions are authorized under these statutory provisions of New York law.

New York’s Promise to Women: Ever Upward

The new regulations are the latest in a series of actions by Governor Cuomo to champion women’s rights, known as “New York’s Promise to Women: Ever Upward.” In the past two years alone, the Governor has signed legislation to combat sexual assault on college campuses through the Enough is Enough Act; prevent sexual harassment in the workplace regardless of the size of the employer; end pregnancy discrimination; establish the longest and most comprehensive paid family leave program in the nation; and raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. To learn more about New York’s Promise to Women, visit here.

Andrea Miller, President of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, said, “As we continue to face an assault on women’s access to contraception and abortion, and women continue to report inconsistent information about insurance coverage for contraception and abortion, gaining clarity through these regulatory actions is more important than ever. Thanks to Governor Cuomo, New York is a leader in holding insurers accountable and ensuring that women receive the coverage for their reproductive health care without discrimination and guaranteed by law.”

Lois Uttley, Director of Raising-Women’s Voices-NY, said, “I applaud Governor Cuomo for taking action to ensure that New York’s women can use their health insurance to obtain the reproductive health services they need. We have heard from some New York women that they have been denied coverage for the contraceptives that are medically best for them, or have been inappropriately charged co-pays for birth control. Other women have reported receiving inaccurate information about contraceptive coverage when they called the customer service lines for their health plans. Today’s action by the Cuomo administration will ensure that New York women can get the contraceptive coverage they need, no matter what happens at the federal level.”

Dina Bakst, Co-President A Better Balance, said, “New York is a leader in supporting women’s equality, and the right to reproductive health care is a key part. We applaud these actions, which build upon ‘New York’s Promise to Women: Ever Upward,’ guaranteeing paid family leave, promoting fair treatment of pregnant workers and prohibiting pay discrimination and discrimination based on family status.”

Donna Lieberman, Executive Director, New York Civil Liberties Union, said, “These actions are an important step forward toward ensuring that women have control over their reproductive lives and reducing the barriers they face in getting the health care services they need. They are especially important to push back against the attack on women’s and women’s health from Washington.”

Kim Atkins, Board Chair, Family Planning Advocates of New York State said, “We applaud Governor Andrew Cuomo for his bold leadership to protect the health and rights of New Yorkers. Our state has long stood as a national leader for reproductive health and rights but today, as extreme politicians in Washington seek to severely restrict access to affordable, high-quality reproductive health care, dismantle federal protection for legal abortion, and defund Planned Parenthood, Governor Cuomo’s action provides the brightest light in these dark days. Governor Cuomo knows that access to reproductive health care is essential health care and that New Yorkers must stand together and protect our rights!”

The proposed regulations regarding abortion services and dispensing of contraceptives, which were submitted to the New York State Register, will be finalized following a 45-day notice and public comment period and become effective 60 days following final issuance. The Department of Financial Services today has issued a circular letter, effective immediately, reminding health insurers of their obligations to cover contraceptive drugs and devices without any co-pays or deductibles.