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Colorado House gives first OK to 12-month supply of contraceptives

March 16, 2017 Updated: March 16, 2017 at 12:24 pm
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A close up of a packet of birth control pills

A bipartisan bill to allow women to get a year's worth of a prescription contraceptive with one pharmacy visit breezed through an initial vote on the House floor Thursday.

Rep. Kim Ransom, R-Littleton, raised a logical question: Why just birth control?

She voted against House Bill 1186 in the committee, after she quizzed insurance companies on why people who have standing prescriptions for illnesses such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure still have to trek to the pharmacy every month or every three months by mail.

"I would like to see some equality," Ransom said. "If people want to go in and get a year's worth of any prescription I don't understand why we're singling out one certain area."

The bill's sponsors, Democrat Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood and Republican Lois Landgraf of Colorado Springs, said limiting some prescriptions, such as pain medication, limits the possibility they will be sold on the black market. Also, physicians sometimes use prescription renewals as a way to ensure patients return for checkups.

"Contraceptive pills are not a controlled substance," Landgraf said.

A 2011 study by the National Institutes of Health indicated that access to a 12-month supply could reduce unwanted pregnancies by one-third.

She said the issue for women is, for one, convenience, but missing a dosage or letting a prescription run out risks an unwanted pregnancy and increases the chance of an abortion.

"To me, the role of the bill is to reduce unintentional pregnancies and therefore reduce abortions,' said the conservative lawmaker.

Pettersen said, "Regardless if you're pro-choice or pro-life, this is a very good bill. It's a simple change - a simple change that doesn't increase cost for insurance companies or providers by just ensuring that women, instead of coming back every month to pick up their birth control, can just pick up a 12-month prescription or whatever prescription their doctor gives them up to 12 months."

The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover many kinds of prescribed contraceptive drugs and devices (except from some religious employers and some plans that were grandfathered in).

Oregon became the first state to require insurers to allow a year's supply of prescribed contraceptives in 2015, and Hawaii, California and Washington D.C. have since adopted the 12-month policy.

The bill still must pass a recorded roll call vote before it moves to the Senate for deliberations. The House has a strong 37-28 Democratic majority. The Senate has a narrow 18-17 Republican majority, but the bill could get bottled up in a committee and never make it to the floor, depending on the Republican leadership's view.

A similar Pettersen bill last year passed the House on a bipartisan 42-23 vote, but died on a party like vote in the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on a party-line vote.

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