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Senate Approves Contraceptive Coverage in Treasury-Postal Appropriations Bill

With little debate, on September 19, the Senate gave voice vote approval to the FY2002 Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government appropriations bill (S. 1398). The House approved its version of the bill (H.R. 2590) on July 25 (see The Source, 7/27/01, p. 2). Both bills would require health plans participating in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) to cover prescription contraceptives if they cover other prescription drugs. Physicians and others who provide contraceptives are exempted from the requirement if they object based on religious beliefs. Religiously affiliated health plans also are exempt.

While the House-passed bill included a provision that would prohibit abortion coverage under FEHBP, the Senate committee-approved version did not include the restriction (see The Source, 7/27/01, p. 4). Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) was expected to offer an amendment to insert the restriction; however, Senators refrained from offering amendments in light of the terrorist attacks last week and in an effort to move the bill quickly.

The Senate bill would make permanent a pilot program that allows federal agencies to use administrative funds to help low-income employees pay for child care. The House-passed bill would renew the program for one year. The House-passed bill also included a provision that would allow women to breastfeed their children in federal buildings or on federal property.

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