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Fight to expand birth control access goes to Idaho House

Idaho Senate Minority Leader Melissa Wintrow
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio

Idaho insurance companies would be required to cover up to a six-month supply of hormonal birth control under a bill that cleared the state Senate Thursday.

Implementing this mandate, said Senate Minority Leader Melissa Wintrow (D-Boise), would help women who lead busy lives.

“We’re raising our kids, we’re caring for our husbands, we’re working for adults in our homes, we’re volunteering, we’re doing all kinds of things,” she said.

Wintrow, who sponsors the bill, said insurance companies usually cover between a one- and three-month supply. Hormonal birth control best works when taken regularly at precise times, she said.

“So, if you increase access, you increase adherence and you increase effectiveness.”

A handful of Republicans opposed the bill, saying legislators shouldn’t further regulate the free market.

Sen. Todd Lakey (R-Nampa) said he has family and friends who are prescribed medication to treat diabetes and blood pressure issues. Those prescriptions are also limited to a three-month supply.

“I don’t think birth control should be treated differently than these other medications. It’s a matter of responsibility every three months,” Lakey said.

Sen. Dan Foreman (R-Viola) agrees the decision should be left up to insurers.

“If it is a good idea, why isn’t it happening? Why don’t the customers go to their insurance companies and demand this type of increase in their service?” Foreman asked.

Senate Assistant Majority Leader Abby Lee (R-Fruitland) said individuals don’t really have much bargaining power with insurance companies, which she called a “regulated monopoly.”

Lee said it would be great if hormonal birth control didn’t require a prescription at all.

“Those of you who are not female on this floor have the option to get your birth control at any gas station or convenience store any day you would like to,” she said.

The bill now goes to the House, which struck down similar legislation two years ago.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!

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