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State Representative Peter Fischer

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Posted: Jul 31 2014 2:16PM
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Rep. Peter Fischer unveils legislation to protect access to contraception coverage


St. Paul, MN – On Wednesday, July 30, State Representative Peter Fischer (DFL – Maplewood) and his fellow lawmakers unveiled a proposal to ensure women have access to contraception coverage regardless of where they work. The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby jeopardizes contraception coverage for women by allowing certain for-profit employers to discriminate against female employees.

The Contraception Health Equity and Employee Rights (CHEER) Act requires employer health plans to include coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptive methods and procedures if the employer’s health plan provides prescription drug coverage to its employees. The proposal includes an exemption for non-profit religious employers.

“Protecting every woman’s fundamental right to make her own health care decisions is a priority for me,” said Rep. Fischer. “The recent Supreme Court decision jeopardizes basic health care for thousands of women in Minnesota, including my constituents. I want to let my neighbors know I am focused on this issue and proactively putting forward solutions to prevent anyone from interfering with a woman’s ability to make personal, private decisions about her health care.”

Absent a legislative response, the Supreme Court’s ruling means Minnesota women will have to pay more for life-saving health care treatments than men in identical jobs and other women who don’t require life-saving medications. Danielle Hans joined legislators at the news conference to share how vital contraceptive care is to her health.

“I believe all Minnesotans should have equal access to healthcare, regardless of their employer’s religious beliefs,” said Hans. “Every single one of my friends has benefited from contraceptives in one way or another. And whether a woman uses contraceptives to treat ovarian cysts, endometriosis, migraines, hormone replacement after chemotherapy, or simply to plan a family, it should never be up to her boss to tell her the ‘right’ reason to receive basic health care.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling is limited to “closely-held” for-profit corporations, but that definition appears to include numerous, large Minnesota employers as long as they have fewer than 35 shareholders – such companies that employ hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans. And the ruling may allow closely-held, for-profit employers to also deny basic preventive health care services like vaccines or HIV treatment for their employees.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling has put access to contraception care for thousands of Minnesota women in jeopardy,” said Lisa Stratton, Director of Gender Justice. “The Minnesota legislature has the opportunity to show leadership on behalf of all women and families by passing a state law that protects the rights of Minnesota women to make their own health care decisions.”  

The CHEER Act would include the following:

Access to Coverage: Starting July 1, 2015, fully-insured employer health insurance plans sold in Minnesota would be required to include coverage for all Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved contraceptive methods and procedures if the health plan provides prescription drug coverage. The proposal includes an exemption for non-profit religious employers.  Health plans would be required to provide contraception without cost-sharing for these employees.

Anti-Discrimination: Employers in Minnesota which offer prescription drug coverage would be prohibited from excluding coverage for FDA-approved prescription contraceptive methods, preventing discrimination against female employees solely on the basis of their decision, or medical need, to prevent pregnancy and childbirth. Non-profit religious employers would be exempt but would be required to disclose to their employees that they do not provide contraception coverage.

Disclosure: Closely-held for-profit employers would be required to disclose to all prospective and current employees if they have employment policies derived from the beliefs of their principle shareholders which result in coverage limitations for employees for services other than prescription contraceptive methods.

House Majority Leader Erin Murphy says the bill is being introduced now because Minnesotans deserve to know if their legislator plans to act during the 2015 session in response to this important issue for Minnesota women and their families.

“Since the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling came down, I have heard from women – and men – expressing serious concerns about what it will mean – for their health, for their families, and for their pocketbooks,” said Murphy. “This is an issue that affects Minnesotans to their core and they are paying attention. Minnesotans deserve to know if their legislators are prepared to make women’s health a priority next session. We are.”

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