Monday, Jan. 17


Contraceptives now covered by private insurance in Illinois     Send a link to a friend

[JAN. 17, 2005]  CHICAGO -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich has launched the Contraceptive Coverage Awareness Campaign -- a coordinated effort to inform women that private insurance plans that cover outpatient drugs or services are now required to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive services and prescriptions. The governor joined actress Wendie Malick and other supporters at Planned Parenthood's administrative office in Chicago on Friday to kick off the campaign.

"Right now, women pay 68 percent more in 'out of pocket' health care costs than men do, because of the cost associated with reproductive health care," Gov. Blagojevich said. "Women pay too much for their health care. If insurance companies can cover Viagra for men, it's only fair that they be required to cover birth control for women."

The governor was joined by Wendie Malick, the actress best known as Nina Van Horn in "Just Shoot Me" and most recently seen in Warner Brothers' "Racing Stripes." Malick, who has long been a supporter of women's health care rights, traveled to Illinois to raise awareness of this new law by recording radio advertisements that will run for four weeks.

Numerous corporate and community partners also joined the governor's awareness effort. Planned Parenthood contributed $30,000 and is helping spread the word through their membership. The Chicago Sun-Times will run eight quarter-page advertisements highlighting the new law. The Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nurses will feature an informational poster on their website, notify all of their members, contribute $1,000 toward poster printing costs and place point-of-purchase displays in all of their offices. With the generosity of outside sponsors and $75,000 from the departments of Human Services, Public Health, and Financial and Professional Regulation, the coming media campaign will include:

  • Nine downtown Chicago billboards that will be up for one month.
  • Four radio spots per day for four weeks on 50 statewide radio stations.
  • 15-18 Spanish radio spots per week for four weeks.
  • 3,000 point-of-purchase displays in hundreds of pharmacies, doctors' offices, clinics, hospitals and Planned Parenthood offices
  • 10,000 posters to be distributed to women's organizations, members of the Illinois AFL-CIO, local health departments, state agencies' offices and legislators' offices
  • 50,000 postcards to be distributed through direct mail and retail outlets. The state is working with the major insurance companies to mail information directly to their privately insured customers. In addition, the pharmacist associations and doctors' organizations will distribute cards through mail and e-mail directly to their members.
  • Features and information on various organizations' websites and in newsletters.
  • Features and information on state websites, including the state of Illinois main site, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation -- Division of Insurance

The Contraceptive Equity in Health Insurance Act, signed on July 7, 2003, requires insurance companies that provide coverage for outpatient services, prescription drugs or devices to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive services and prescriptions. Though the bill went into effect on Jan. 1, 2004, insurance companies were not required to begin covering contraceptives under existing policies until the annual policy renewal. Renewal dates are different for each company, but by January 2005 all companies have renewed their policies and must adhere to this act.

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Mandated coverage includes services and birth control pills, patches, implants, shots, IUDs and diaphragms. Coverage does not include any service related to abortion or over-the-counter medications. Some insurers are exempt, including those companies that are self-insured, those that fall under the Health Care Right of Conscience Act and those that do not offer outpatient services, prescription drug benefits or devices. Though the state of Illinois is self-insured, it is not exempt from providing coverage.

Since taking office more than two years ago, Gov. Blagojevich has taken many steps toward improving the rights, health and well-being of Illinois women. As a dedicated advocate for women's rights in the workplace, the governor fought to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work. He also signed legislation to expand the KidCare and FamilyCare programs, adding 20,000 more children and 65,000 more parents to the state health insurance rolls. Most recently, the governor announced a minimum wage increase in Illinois that raised the minimum wage by $1, to $6.50 an hour, benefiting nearly half a million Illinoisans -- a majority of whom are women.

Gov. Blagojevich thanked state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, state Sens. Iris Y. Martinez and Carol Ronen, Steve Trombley of Planned Parenthood, and the other tireless advocates who fought to make contraceptive coverage a right in Illinois. The governor also thanked several prominent women who are adding their support to the outreach campaign, including actress Wendie Malick; Marie Lindsey and Christine Salvator of the Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nurses; Dr. Lauren Streicher, an ob-gyn physician with Northwestern Memorial; Jennifer Koehler of Chicago National Organization for Women; Trish Wegner, immediate past president of the Illinois Council of Health Systems Pharmacists; and Pam Sutherland, chief executive officer of the Illinois Council Planned Parenthood.

"As lawmakers, it's not only our responsibility to make the laws, it's also our responsibility to make sure people know about the laws," the governor said. "This law will help women save money, and we need to make sure that women all over Illinois know about it."

House Bill 211 was sponsored by Rep. Sara Feigenholtz and Sen. Iris Y. Martinez.

[News release from the governor's office]

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