Bill would remove cost of Plan B
The "morning after" pill is now available over the counter at $45 per dose
Women who used to get the "morning after" contraception pill for free now have to pay for it. But a bill in the Legislature would make the drug, sold as Plan B, available for free again.
Hawaii's Medicaid program previously covered the cost of the pill when it could be dispensed under a prescription, but when the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug for sale over the counter, Medicaid could no longer pay for it.
The pill is now available over the counter at $45 a dose.
But some legislators say many Medicaid subscribers cannot afford the new fee. The bill came out of the Women's Legislative Caucus.
"In our caucus we have some women who aren't even pro-choice, but they see the merit in (the bill)," said Rep. Marilyn Lee (D, Mililani-Mililani Mauka).
House Bill 456 would reimburse sellers of the drug so it can be offered to women at no cost. Appropriations for that money would be decided by the federal Department of Human Services. New York and California are the only states that currently do this.
Some say Plan B hurts women and that making it free could encourage them to use it more frequently.
After Plan B became legal without prescription, "STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) skyrocketed, and the pregnancy rate has not been reduced," said John McDermott, who testified against the bill because he believes Plan B is a type of abortion.
Plan B is a large dose of levonorgestrel, the female hormone in daily contraceptive pills that prevents ovulation. The dose usually comes in two pills which are ingested in a time sequence. The dose is effective until 72 hours after unprotected sex and is not sold to minors.
The bills were passed by both Senate and House Human Services committees Feb. 15.
The Senate bill waits to be heard by the Ways and Means Committee, and the House bill was passed by the Finance Committee on Thursday.