Assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood)
Assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood)

Assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood), introduced AB 1954 to ease access to reproductive health care for Californians. Under the bill, patients would no longer need a referral to see a reproductive health care provider, and could go out of their provider’s network for care if needed.

“Women in California deserve timely access to quality, affordable, reproductive health 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.

“This first-of-its kind legislation will help women get the time-sensitive reproductive health care they need, when they need it,” said Julie Rabinovitz, California Family Health Council’s President and CEO. “We applaud Assemblymember Burke for introducing this policy solution that can serve as a model for other states and continue California’s leadership in expanding women’s health access,” 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.

“When it comes to time-sensitive reproductive health services, every day counts,” said Amy Everitt, state director of NARAL Pro-Choice California. “This bill ensures that California women don’t have to choose between dangerous delays in care or paying out of pocket to get a timely appointment.”

Reproductive health care is primary care for many California women. AB 1954 levels the playing field to ensure equal access for women, regardless of their insurance carrier. Creating a pathway for more timely access is essential to women’s health and will go a long way in helping to improve health outcomes and reduce costs.

“CLRJ is proud to be working with the fierce leadership of Assemblymember Autumn Burke and co-sponsoring this bill along with our colleagues at Black Women for Wellness, California Family Health Council, and NARAL. It is crucial that California continues to lead the way in ensuring that all people have access to health care in a timely manner, especially in relation to decisions over their reproductive bodily autonomy,” Laura Jimenez, Executive Director with California Latinas for Reproductive Justice.