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Pierce says contraception bill probably not coming back

Senate President Steve Pierce (Photo by Evan Wyloge/ Arizona Capitol Times)

Senate President Steve Pierce doesn’t think legislation allowing employers with religious objection to deny contraception coverage to workers will return for a second vote.

Pierce previously indicated he was willing to cast the required 16th “yes” vote to pass the bill last week if supporters could get 15 senators to support the bill.

The bill ultimately failed on a 13-17 vote.

“That’s where I was on the first vote,” he said.

But Pierce didn’t sound as committed yesterday.

When pressed if things have changed, Pierce replied, “Probably, yeah. I don’t think it’s coming back.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Michele Reagan, who was among the seven Republicans who voted “no,” rebuffed the Capitol chatter that she is willing to switch to “yes.”

“I’m not going to change my mind if the bill is exactly the same as it is,” Reagan said.

Reagan also said she heard that the legislation, HB2526, could possibly get revived via a conference committee, where a small number of lawmakers from both chambers meet to hammer out differences on legislation.

She said if supporters stripped out the majority of the bill’s provisions that are problematic for her, she would “ponder” it once again.

But a conference committee only happens if the House and the Senate disagree on changes made to a bill by the other chamber.

The obvious complication is HB2625 hasn’t even passed out of the Senate.

There’s one other possibility: Supporters could try to amend a completely different bill that is before a conference committee to contain the provisions of HB2625.

Meanwhile, one clause in the legislation that hasn’t received as much attention is it appears to allow health insurance companies to opt out of providing contraceptive care to women it covers.

In Section 1 of HB2625, language is added to Arizona Revised Statutes 20-826 that allows a “medical service corporation” to assert a religious objection to the use of contraception, after which time it can require women to pay for the coverage and then submit a claim for reimbursement – along with evidence that the prescription is not for “a purpose covered by the objection.”

In current law, “medical service corporations” are one of several groups listed as a “health care insurer.”

Below is the language in the bill:

“A hospital service corporation, medical service corporation, hospital, medical, dental and optometric service corporation, employer or other entity offering the plan may state religious beliefs in its affidavit and may require the subscriber to first pay for the prescription and then submit a claim to the hospital service corporation, medical service corporation or hospital, medical, dental and optometric service corporation along with evidence that the prescription is not for a purpose covered by the objection. A hospital service corporation, medical service corporation or hospital, medical, dental and optometric service corporation may charge an administrative fee for handling these claims.”

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