A particular House Bill recently passed in the Arizona House that would permit any employer to refuse to provide health insurance covering birth control if this is against their religious beliefs. House Bill 2625 will now go to the Senate for evaluation. If the bill passes the Senate, it will be signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Arizona is among 26 states with laws that mandate employers to include contraception coverage in the Arizona health insurance plans they are providing to their female employees. However, this is bound to change in the near future if HB 2625 will become law. It would allow any business to claim a religious exemption to stop covering contraception.
New Arizona Health Insurance Bill Erodes Women's Rights
For Michelle Steinberg, Planned Parenthood lobbyist, the bill would just lead to more unplanned pregnancies and can possibly increase abortion rates. Steinberg said, "Birth control is a preventative health-care benefit." This is essential in order to improve women's health as well as the health of families. Steinberg even questioned the people who introduced anti-abortion bills why they are blocking access to birth control if they wanted to reduce abortion rates.
Steinberg said that it's ok for religious employers like a church to be exempted from providing contraceptive coverage. However, simply allowing any employer to 'opt out' based on their religious belief system is a sign of discrimination against their workers.
Bryan Howard, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, said that HB 2625 will just pave the way for every employer and insurer in Yuma County to superimpose their values when it comes to major health care decisions available to women.
Contrary to the claims made by the proponents, Howard believes that this will not protect religious freedom. This new bill steps on the religious freedom of female employees who wish to get contraception coverage. This will just enable employers to impose their own beliefs on everybody working for the company.
What Will Happen If The New Arizona Health Insurance Bill Becomes Law?
Even if the bill becomes law, if the health care reform law is not repealed, employers will still be required to cover birth control by 2013 whether it is against their religious beliefs or not. Only churches and religious organizations are exempted from offering Arizona health insurance plans with birth control coverage based on moral grounds. Arizona health insurance companies would still have to cover the expenses of birth-control coverage.
According to the Obama administration, this mandate will improve women's health. AZ health insurance companies must cover government-approved birth control for women as a form of preventive care with no co-pays under the new health care guidelines. Birth control methods that will be covered include FDA approved IUD's, pills, morning-after pills as well as long-acting contraceptive implants.