MCRU Rules For Birth Control Drugs

September 5, 2006
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LANSING — Companies with fewer than 15 employees will now have to comply in the same way as larger companies when offering contraceptives in a comprehensive insurance plan, following a decision by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.

The commission decided Aug. 22 that excluding contraceptives from an employee’s health plan that covers other prescription drugs and services violates the state’s Elliot-Larson Civil Rights Act.

“It goes into effect immediately,” said Harold Core, public information officer for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. “The hope is that the businesses will be proactive and begin to provide prescription contraception coverage immediately.”

Core said he hopes the decision will bring coverage to women who weren’t able to afford contraceptives before or were burdened by the costs.

“Hopefully, this will bring greater health care coverage and cut down on the incidence of unwanted pregnancies,” he said.

The new decision follows a decision in 2000 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concerning Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited employers with more than 15 employees from excluding prescription contraceptive coverage when other drugs and devices are covered.

“You can’t discriminate based on the fact that women can get pregnant,” Core said. “What this basically says is … if your coverage is comprehensive and it does not cover contraceptives, it is expanded just to cover contraceptives.”

Core said he believes the decision is another step toward equity for women.

“There are more steps that need to be taken, but there’s been a lot of progress,” he said.

Shelli Weisburg, legislative director of the Michigan Civil Liberties Union, said as one of the 28 organizations that brought the issue forward, the MCLU is pleased with the decision.

“We thought it was such an important issue that we asked for a ruling,” she said. “It begins to at least put us close to being in line with half of the other states.”

Weisburg said with 60 percent of people in Michigan working for companies with 15 or fewer employees, the issue affects a lot of people.

While the decision is not a binding legal opinion, Weisburg said she hopes it will open the doors for a law to be passed.

“We’re hoping that this will encourage our legislature to pass a law.”   

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