Like many insurers, the VA will only provide three months’ worth of birth control pills to patients at a time. A group of Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation Thursday that would allow VA to dispense up to a years’ supply at a time, in an attempt to reduce the likelihood that supplies will run out or refills will be delayed, forcing patients to skip a pill and increase their risk of unintended pregnancy.

The Access to Contraception Expansion for Veterans Act would require VA providers to inform their patients that there is an option to request a year of oral contraceptive pills at a time, according to a release.

“As the number of women volunteering to serve our nation continues to rise, it’s critical we modernize our healthcare systems to meet their unique needs,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), one of the bill’s sponsors, said in the release. “I’m proud to be introducing this important legislation today with Senator Hirono and Representative Underwood that would help Veterans who are experiencing difficulty accessing contraception get the care they need while also saving taxpayer dollars and reducing unintended pregnancies.”

Duckworth is joined by Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, on the Senate bill. The House has introduced its own version, co-sponsored by Reps. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., and Conor Lamb, D-Pa.

Duckworth previously introduced a version of this bill in 2019.

Studies have shown that both that larger prescriptions lead to fewer missed days of birth control, while saving time and money for the VA.

According to a study of VA data released in 2013, more than 64 percent of patients had experienced at least one week-long gap in coverage in the previous year. Though VA has the ability to fill year-long prescriptions, common practice at VA ― as well as with many private insurers ― is to limit refills to three months.

The study, however, pointed out that the cost of unintended pregnancies for veterans far outweighs any extra costs associated with providing 12 months of pills at a time.

“When you ask a veteran to pick up their contraception every few months rather than just once a year, it’s more than just a few extra drives to the pharmacy, it costs the VA money and makes women veterans more susceptible to unintended pregnancies,” Underwood said in the release. “The ACE Veterans Act will reduce this burden and bring the VA’s current policy up-to-date with evidence-based policies implemented across the country.”

Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.

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