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Employers Ordered To Pay for Contraceptives

Many women may soon pay less out of their own pockets for birth control prescriptions. It's a federal first--a court ruling about health insurance coverage for female contraception.

Jennifer Erickson, a young pharmacist, not only had to foot the bill for her own birth control, but also had to explain to other women why this prescription was not covered by insurance. Fed up, she sued, charging that her employer, Bartell Drug stores, was discriminating against women. For the first time, a federal court judge agreed.

"I am extremely pleased with this decision and I wanted to encourage all employers and insurance companies across America to provide equitable health benefits," says Erickson.

The federal judge in the case issued this judgement stating, "Although the plan covers all drugs and devices used by men, the exclusion of prescription contraceptives creates a gaping hole in coverage."

Roberta Riley of Planned Parenthood says, "Contraception is a basic health care for women. Women need contraception for well over 20 years of their lives."

Although the government already mandates that federal employees' contraceptives be paid for by insurance, only about half the nation's largest private insurance companies provide such coverage. Some of those same companies, however, do pay for the male impotence drug Viagra.

Erickson claims that Bartell violated the 1978 pregnancy discrimination act. Bartell's response: Nowhere in that law is contraception ever mentioned.

Jean Bartell-Barber of Bartell Drugs says, "We felt our plan, I can only speak for our plan, was excellent and we never discriminated against anyone."

Bartell will comply with the ruling, and other businesses are now on notice when it comes to providing contraceptives in their medical plans.
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