Republicans in Congress have gone to war over the administration’s new rule requiring employers and insurers to provide contraception coverage to women. Despite the fact that the regulation already excludes more than 335,000 entities, Republicans have introduced legislation seeking to expand the conscience clause protection to exclude even more religiously affiliated institutions from the requirement. The move, which is opposed by women’s groups, would significantly restrict access to affordable birth control by allowing Catholic colleges, universities, or hospitals to deny contraception coverage. As a result, these women would have to spend up to $600 a year buying birth control without the help of insurance.
But interestingly, members of Congress who seek to limit the availability of affordable birth control all enjoy contraception insurance as part of the government managed Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB). Members first approved the so-called “contraception equity” provision in 1998, through the FY 1999 Omnibus Supplemental Appropriations Act, H.R. 4328, PL 105-277, and have passed the measure ever since. The language “ensures that federal employees participating in FEHBP have insurance coverage of FDA-approved prescription contraceptives and related services.”
A ThinkProgress analysis reveals that 12 members of Congress who approved the conference report for the 1999 omnibus bill have signed on as co-sponsors of the current GOP-led measure to limit women’s access to contraception by changing the Obama administration’s rule. From the original FEHBP requirement:
A new law requires FEHB plans to provide contraceptive coverage. For 1999, the Office of Personnel Management will require all plans to cover the full range of contraceptive drugs and devices approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
A few plans will be exempt from this requirement, and they are noted below. Because the law was signed on October 21, 1998, after the FEHB brochures for 1999 were printed, the FEHB brochures you will receive during the Open Season do not reflect these additional benefits. You should use this notice when you read the brochures, so that you will have an accurate understanding of the benefits offered by plans that you are considering.
An official at the Office of Personnel Management, which administrates the program, has confirmed to ThinkProgress that all FEHB plans provide coverage for contraception, meaning that every single member of Congress opposing Obama’s rule now has the birth control coverage they’re seeking to deny to others.