Family planning will be less expensive for millions of Californians under a new law taking effect Jan. 1.
Women will be able to go to their local pharmacy, pick up over-the-counter birth control and have insurance pay for it — no prescription needed. Meanwhile, more people will be able to access vasectomies with no out-of-pocket costs.
The Contraceptive Equity Act of 2022 authored by former Sen. Connie Leyva, a Democrat from Chino, requires private health insurance plans to cover birth control products, including condoms and spermicide, without a prescription and no co-pays. This portion of the law applies only to women and is allowed only in in-network pharmacies.
Men will have the option of cheaper vasectomies. A vasectomy is a low-risk sterilization procedure that usually takes about 20 minutes. Cost has long been a major determining factor for men seeking the procedure, which can cost up to several hundred dollars, including follow-up visits.
Billing data shows that vasectomies are becoming more popular following the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, according to national studies.
California’s new law will apply to about 14 million people with commercial insurance regulated by the state. This new law does not apply to people whose health insurance plan is regulated by the federal government.
Californians covered by Medi-Cal, the joint state and federal health insurance program for low-income people, already have access to vasectomies at no cost to them. But under federal rules, they’ll still need a prescription to access over-the-counter birth control.
This fall, the Biden administration announced it is seeking public input regarding easing access for over-the-counter preventive care supplies, including contraceptives.
Reproductive health advocacy groups Essential Access Health, NARAL Pro-Choice California and the National Health Law Program pushed for the new California law. They have been working to expand access to reproductive care since the Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to an abortion. In 2022, California also passed a law that eliminated out-of-pocket costs for abortions.
Lobbying groups that represent health insurers, include the California Association of Health Plans, lobbied against the law. They argued state mandates increase the cost of coverage for all Californians, as well as to taxpayers.
The California Catholic Conference and the Right to Life League also opposed the law, with the Catholic group seeking clear exceptions for religious employers.