Copyright 2000 Newsday, Inc.
Newsday (New York, NY)
December 15, 2000, Friday NASSAU AND SUFFOLK
SECTION: NEWS; Page A28
LENGTH: 385 words
COVERAGE FOR CONTRACEPTIVES
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Washington-Viagra, a godsend to impotent men, set off protests among women
who argued that health insurance companies that cover a male
sex drug also should cover birth control pills for women.
Now a federal
agency agrees, saying it's against the law for many health plans to exclude
The decision by the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission, announced Wednesday, directly affects only two women who complained
to the commission. But it has potential implications for millions of others
whose health insurance plans exclude birth control pills,
diaphragms and other forms of prescription contraceptives. "Our
hope is that we announce a principle and employers want to comply with the law,"
said Ellen J. Vargyas, an EEOC attorney who worked on the case.
advocates have pushed for this coverage in Congress, in the courts and in the
media, but the EEOC is the first official body to conclude that the law already
The debate over contraceptive coverage
burst into public when the male impotence drug Viagra came onto the market in
Women's groups argued that it was unfair that many
insurance companies covered Viagra and did not cover birth
control since both allow for sexual activity, albeit in different ways.
Specifically, the EEOC said excluding contraceptives is
a violation of the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which requires equal
treatment of women "affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical
conditions," in all aspects of employment, including fringe benefits. The law
also protects women against discrimination because they have the ability to
become pregnant, not just because they are already pregnant, the agency noted.
The commission also found that excluding contraceptives
amounts to sex discrimination because these prescriptions are available only for
Insurance companies say they are willing to
cover contraceptives if employers are willing to pay for it.
Some employers do just that; others say it's too expensive.
and consumers are struggling in many cases to be able to afford coverage," said
Richard Coorsh, spokesman for the Health Insurance Association
The EEOC rejected arguments based on cost.
LOAD-DATE: December 15, 2000