California is trying to ease the pain of vasectomies by making them free for millions of residents.

Federal law and state law require most health insurers to cover prescription contraceptives at no cost to the patient. But those provisions apply to only 18 FDA-approved birth control options for women, so anyone with testicles is out of luck.

California lawmakers are now considering a bill that would expand that requirement to male sterilization and non-prescription birth control, including condoms and contraceptive sponges. If the Contraceptive Equity Act of 2022 passes, commercial insurance plans regulated by the state won’t be allowed to impose out-of-pocket costs, like copays, coinsurance, and deductibles, on those modes of birth control….

SB 523 has sailed through preliminary votes in the state legislature, which faces an end-of-August deadline to act on bills. If the measure passes, it would take effect in 2024, and California would join a handful of states that require plans they regulate to completely cover vasectomies or non-prescription birth control.

The California Association of Health Plans is still evaluating the measure, which may be amended in the final days of the legislative session. But the association generally opposes bills that require additional insurance benefits because they could lead to higher premiums, spokesperson Mary Ellen Grant said.

SB 523 applies to more than 14 million Californians who work for the state, have a student health plan through a university, or have state-regulated commercial health plans. They would become eligible to receive free over-the-counter birth control — such as emergency contraception, condoms, spermicide, and contraceptive sponges — in addition to vasectomies. The bill would not apply to the millions of Californians whose health insurance plans are regulated by the federal government….

The above comes from an August 19 posting by Kaiser Health News on Laist.