April 28, 2017

Cortez Masto: Women Servicemembers Deserve Access to Basic Healthcare

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) cosponsored 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. The bill would bring healthcare provided by the military in line with current law for civilian populations by ensuring that all women who receive healthcare through the United States military have access to all forms of FDA-approved contraception with no health insurance co-pay. Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) introduced companion legislation in the House.

“The fact that women in the military do not have the same access to family planning services and contraceptives as civilian women is unacceptable and must be rectified,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “This bill will ensure that women in the military are not deprived of the most basic healthcare services. I am proud to cosponsor this legislation and I will continue to fight against inequality in our military wherever it may be.”

The Department of Defense provides healthcare 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 Access to Contraception for Women Service Members and Dependents Act of 2017 would:

  • Require that all women who receive healthcare 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.

The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Menéndez (D-N.J.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), John Tester (D-Mont.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).