Ernst Works to Increase Access to Over-the-Counter Birth Control, Expand Health Care Choices for Women

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) is introducing legislation to expand health care choices for women by increasing access to contraceptives over-the-counter (OTC) and without a prescription. The bill would also allow women to use health savings accounts to purchase over-the-counter-medications without a prescription.

“Expanding health care choices for Iowa women in a responsible way is deeply important to me,” said Senator Joni Ernst. “By allowing women to purchase birth control over-the-counter and without the requirement of a prescription, we are giving them more options, with fewer delays and without unnecessary hurdles. It’s critical we remove barriers for women in Iowa and across the country to give them the best access to care possible.”

“Making contraception more accessible, especially for rural Iowans is the right thing to do,” said Governor Kim Reynolds. “That’s why we introduced legislation this year to improve access and reduce unintended pregnancies. What Senator Ernst has unveiled at the federal level closely aligns with our efforts, and I appreciate her leadership on this issue.”

The Allowing Greater Access to Safe and Effective Contraception Act makes routine-use contraceptives available OTC to patients without a prescription.

The bill grants priority review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to any supplemental application made by a drug manufacturer to move its routine-use contraceptive product from prescription to OTC for individuals over the age of 18. A priority review designation means the FDA’s goal is to take action on an application within six months. It also waives any FDA fees that would be associated with such an application.

The legislation also repeals provisions in current law, under the Affordable Care Act, that affect the use of tax-advantaged savings accounts for health care expenses, such as health savings accounts (HSAs), flexible spending accounts (FSAs), and medical savings accounts (MSAs). In particular, the legislation repeals the ACA’s prohibition on using funds from these accounts to purchase OTC medications. It also repeals the $2,500 annual cap on contributions toward these types of accounts imposed by the ACA.

Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) is an original cosponsor on the bill.