House lawmakers reintroduced a bill that would allow military families to obtain expanded access to reproductive health care.
The Access to Contraception for Servicemembers and Dependents Act of 2021 will expand reproductive health access to birth control, family planning education and emergency contraception for survivors of assault. The expanded access would also extend to non-active-duty service members, those in the reserves, inactive reserves, retired military members and their dependents. Currently, TRICARE, which is the health insurance program for military members and their families, only offers limited contraception methods. Compounding the problem are poor continuity of care, long wait times and poor contraceptive counseling.
“Our military families should not have fewer rights than those they serve to protect,” sponsor of the bill Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee said in a statement. “Access to basic, preventive health care, including contraception and family planning counseling, is critical to troop readiness, wellbeing, and equality.”
Access to Contraception for Servicemembers and Dependents Act ensures that reproductive health care provided by the military includes all FDA-approved contraception with no copay. The bill was designed to alleviate cost barriers to women who need access to birth control, and could help prevent unwanted pregnancies.
More than 100 legislators support the bill, which was first introduced in 2014. U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) also proposed a Senate version.
At present, the Department of Defense (DoD) provides health care to more than 1.6 million women who are of reproductive age. Approximately 95% of women serving in the military are of reproductive age and more than 700,000 female spouses and dependents of the members of the military are of reproductive age.
The bill also requires that the DoD develop a comprehensive family planning education program for both men and women on the types of contraception methods and the contraceptive methods that are currently available. The standardized curriculum would be helpful in preventing unwanted pregnancies and diseases.
“It’s unacceptable that some members of our military and their family members are saddled with out-of-pocket expenses for contraception, while patients in the commercial insurance market are guaranteed access to contraception without cost-sharing,” Shaheen said in the same statement. “Removing these barriers and ensuring reproductive care is available to our military families upholds our commitment to provide them quality, comprehensive services and also is an investment in our military readiness. We owe them the best for their service and sacrifice for our nation.”