Congresswoman Speier Calls for Equal Access for Women Servicemembers to Basic Health Care
**Speier reintroduced legislation to establish health care equity for military women and their dependents**
**Unlike civilians, military women and their dependents do not have access to all forms of FDA-approved contraception with no co-pay under military health insurance**
**Speier’s legislation would provide military women with increased access to all methods of contraception, increase family planning resources, and guarantee access to emergency contraception for sexual assault victims**
Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo Counties), along with 55 of her colleagues in the House of Representatives, re-introduced the Access to Contraception for Women Servicemembers and Dependents Act of 2017 to overhaul current Department of Defense (DoD) policy on contraceptive coverage and family planning counseling. Speier’s bill would bring health care provided by the military in line with current law for civilian populations by ensuring that all women who receive health care through the United States military have access to all forms of FDA-approved contraception with no health insurance co-pay. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
“Women represent over 15 percent of our military servicemembers, and their readiness is a matter of national security. Lack of access to contraception and family planning services puts our servicemembers at a huge disadvantage, negatively impacting overall troop readiness” Rep. Speier said. “We must ensure that our servicemembers and their dependents are given the same access to preventive health care services, including contraception and family planning services, that our civilian population receives as part of the ACA. It is the least we can do for these brave servicemembers who have put their lives on the line in defense of our freedoms.”
“It’s unacceptable that military women don’t have the same protections and access to comprehensive health care as the women that they serve to protect,” said Senator Shaheen. “No woman should be worried about how they will afford their contraception or find family planning services. My bill will fix this imbalance and ensure that military women and their families have the tools they need to make important informed decisions about their health and their lives.”
“The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) applauds Senator Shaheen and Representative Speier for introducing the Access to Contraception for Women Servicemembers and Dependents Act. This legislation will ensure that active duty servicewomen and female dependents will continue to receive the highest quality health care, ” said ACOG President Thomas Gellhaus, M.D. “Women play a vital role in the U.S. military, currently constituting approximately 15% of all active duty and reserve members of the military. With more than 1,500 highly trained active duty and retired ob-gyns in our Armed Forces District, ACOG is proud of our Fellows who have dedicated their careers to serving our country and providing comprehensive health care to active duty servicewomen and female dependents.”
The Department of Defense provides health care to over 4 million women, including servicewomen on active duty, in the guard or reserves, and their dependents. Recent studies have shown that women in the military have a higher rate of unplanned pregnancy (50 percent higher) than the general population. The studies have also shown that servicewomen face unique challenges accessing their preferred method of contraception and family planning counselling, especially when deployed. Additionally, although the Women’s Health Amendment to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) guarantees civilian women coverage of women’s health preventive services, such as access to generic FDA-approved contraception and counselling, without cost sharing, this policy does not apply to many servicewomen and dependents covered through military health insurance (TRICARE).
Rep. Speier’s Access to Contraception for Women Service Members and Dependents Act of 2017 would:
· Require that all women who receive health care through the military are treated the same as civilian women, and have access to all forms of FDA-approved contraception and family planning counselling services with no health insurance co-pay;
· Require the Department of Defense to develop a comprehensive family planning education program for all servicemembers, ensuring that military families have the information necessary to make informed family planning decisions; and
· Enhance access to emergency contraception for survivors of military sexual assault.
Rep. Speier first introduced this legislation in the 113th Congress, and the policy has received strong support from women’s health advocates. Speier was able to secure two provisions in the FY16 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that ensure that servicewomen who use contraception on a long-term basis are dispensed a large enough amount to cover the full time of their deployment and that military treatment facilities (MTFs) have a sufficient stock of a broad array of FDA approved contraception methods available for pickup so that servicewomen can have access to the specific contraception prescribed by their doctor for their body.