Claman renews effort to give Alaska women 12-month prescriptions for birth control

Alaska state Rep. Matt Claman is picking up where he left off last year with legislation that would require public and private insurers to cover 12-month prescriptions for birth control.

The Anchorage Democrat said it’s good for Alaska women, but he’s pitching it as a way for the state to save money. Lizzie Kubitz, his chief of staff, explained in a hearing on Feb. 28.

“When women have greater access and availability to contraceptives, unintended pregnancies are reduced,” she said. “Reductions in unintended pregnancies have a direct cost savings to the state.”

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 48 percent of pregnancies in Alaska are unintended. That’s slightly higher than the national average of 45 percent.

Kubitz said that in 2010 more than 90 percent of Alaska’s unintended pregnancies were publicly funded, costing the state $42.9 million.

Jessica Cler, who manages public affairs at Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, said that women in Alaska face unique circumstances that can make it difficult to access birth control.

Women anywhere face a number of different challenges, whether it’s busy work lives or families to take care of ,” she said. “I think in Alaska, specifically, women can face additional barriers, particularly when women who are living in remote communities or perhaps work on a boat or work in tourism to get to a pharmacy or a local provider to refill your birth control every month or every three months.”

Small businesses and private insurers oppose the bill. Their concerns include patient safety, medication storage and cost and waste.

The bill does not change the requirements for covering birth control in Alaska, which is mandated at the federal level by the Affordable Care Act. It adds the same requirement to state law, plus the 12-month prescription rule.

Last year, the legislation died in committee, but this year’s new leadership in the House could increase its odds of passing.

State Rep. Ivy Spohnholz is a co-sponsor of House Bill 25.

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