SACRAMENTO, Calif. — 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.
“It’s pretty groundbreaking in that way — it’s a whole new framework to think about contraception as something that is relevant for people of all genders,” said Liz McCaman Taylor, a senior attorney with the National Health Law Program, a group that advocates for the health rights of low-income people.
A vasectomy is an outpatient surgical procedure in which the patient’s supply of sperm is cut off from his semen by sealing or snipping the tubes that transport sperm from the testes to the penis. Most men need to recover on the couch with an ice pack for a day or two, and a test a few months later determines whether the procedure worked.
Because vasectomies are elective procedures and usually not urgent, price can be a deciding factor.
For Nathan Songne, cost was the most stressful part of the procedure. For several year …