April 26, 2017

Van Hollen, Shaheen Introduce Legislation to Ensure Women Servicemembers Have Access to Basic Health Care

Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced the Access to Contraception for Women Servicemembers and Dependents Act of 2017 to overhaul current Department of Defense policy on contraceptive coverage and family planning counseling. The 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. Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) introduced companion legislation in the House.

"The millions of women serving in our armed forces deserve the same access to health care as all other women in our country," said Senator Van Hollen. "This legislation would provide health care parity for military women and ensure access to important family planning tools."

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).

The bill is also co-sponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), John Tester (D-MT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).