Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., introduced legislation on Wednesday that would require Tricare to provide birth control free-of-charge to beneficiaries at retail pharmacies and by mail.
The Access to Contraception for Women Servicemembers and Dependents Act would align the Tricare benefit with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, which mandates that insurance companies cover FDA-approved contraception without co-payments.
Female troops and Tricare beneficiaries currently do not make any co-payments if they receive their contraceptive devices or oral contraception at a military hospital or clinic. They also do not pay for generic medications obtained from Tricare’s home delivery system.
But they pay a $5 co-pay for a 30-day generic prescription at retail pharmacies and $17 for a brand-name. A 90-day brand-name prescription through the mail carries a co-payment of $13.
“Female service members deserve access to the same basic health care as the women they protect,” Shaheen said.
The move comes on the heels of a report released today from the Center for American Progress that cites disparities in health care for female troops when compared with civilians.
Some studies show the rate of unplanned pregnancies in the military is 50 percent higher than among civilian women.
Fifteen senators — all Democrats — have joined as co-sponsors on Shaheen’s measure, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., co-chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s personnel panel.
The bill also would require the Defense Department to provide family planning counseling for all active-duty female troops.
“Giving women in the military access to basic preventative health care, including contraception and family planning counseling, will strengthen our military as a whole,” Shaheen said in a release.