The Direct Access to Reproductive Health Care Act eliminates referral requirements
Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1954 this week, the Direct Access to Reproductive Health Care Act authored by Assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood), easing access to reproductive health care for millions of Californians. Under the bill, patients would no longer need a referral to see a reproductive health care provider.
“Reproductive health care is primary care for many women in California, and they deserve timely access to quality, affordable care,” said Burke. “AB 1954 opens the door to better care for patients, without unnecessary administrative barriers.”
Changes in the law at both the federal and state level have increased timely access to birth control and preventive care for patients covered by commercial plans and Medi-Cal. However, even though commercial plans are required to ensure access to care and services within their networks, they vary widely in terms of network adequacy and referral policies. While some plans allow direct access to a reproductive health care provider, others require patients to first get a referral from their primary care physician.
“Women and men across California will now be able to bypass unnecessary administrative burdens to access the time sensitive sexual and reproductive health services they need – when they need them,” said Julie Rabinovitz, President and CEO of California Family Health Council. “Today Governor Brown continued California’s leadership in enacting policy solutions that reduce barriers to essential health care that helps reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy and the spread of HIV and other STDs,” added Rabinovitz.
Women in California have faced long delays in accessing care due to both a lack of appropriate and trained providers within health plan networks, and referral requirements. Although most women will seek an obstetrician-gynecologist (ob-gyn) for routine and preventive health care, a shortage of providers can make finding that care incredibly difficult. California currently has 2.44 ob-gyn physicians for every 10,000 women, and nine counties lack ob-gyns entirely.
“Access to quality, comprehensive health care is a critical component to improving the reproductive health outcomes and overall well-being of women, their families, and, by extension, California’s diverse communities. We know that access is often complicated by geography, migration and economic status, as well as the lack of health insurance and the patchwork of healthcare coverage caused by health plan referral policies. By signing AB 1954 into law, we take another step toward making reproductive health services accessible to all Californians,” Laura Jimenez, Executive Director, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice.