By Lauren Linhard – moxie.lauren@gmail.com

Women of Maryland can now cross birth control off their monthly budget sheet thanks to the Contraceptive Equity Act, passed into law on May 10. The new legislation eliminates insurance co-pays for most birth control pills and methods as well as emergency contraception, like Plan B.

Maryland now leads the country with the most expansive insurance coverage for contraception.

“Family planning is essential for women’s rights and cost is a factor in family planning,” said state Delegate Ariana Kelly, who sponsored the House bill. “This legislation is going to help eliminate barriers and reduce costs for women and for men.”

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The act also fills in a number of holes the Affordable Care Act didn’t cover. As federal law currently stands, insurance companies are only required to fully cover the cost of one type of birth control within each of the 18 categories of contraceptives. That means a woman may have to choose between a pill or method that works best for her versus one she can afford.

Beginning in 2018, all that changes in Maryland. Insurance companies will cover up to six months’ worth of birth control pills at a time, the “morning after” pill and long term contraceptives like IUDs. The law also mandates coverage for men getting vasectomies at no out-of-pocket cost.

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While some parts of the Maryland bill mimic laws in other states – Oregon and Washington, D.C. already required insurance companies to allow the sale of 12 months of birth control pills at a time – it is easily the most encompassing, said Karen Nelson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Maryland.

“When so many states and so many pockets of the country are trying to take away reproductive health care and take away rights of women, Maryland is saying, ‘We are going to provide more health care coverage and more access to birth control,’” Nelson said.