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The American Civil Liberties Union and the Washington National Abortion Rights Action League have filed a class action lawsuit against insurance carrier Regence BlueShield for its exclusion of prescription contraceptives in coverage plans. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in King County Superior Court, accused Washington state’s largest insurer of discrimination against women by excluding “essential” birth control prescriptions from health plans. The ACLU and NARAL are organizations that provide their employees with health insurance benefits including prescription coverage. They have asked Regence to include contraceptives in group plans. “As an employer, the ACLU wants to provide coverage for contraceptives to our female employees and dependents,” Kathleen Taylor, the ACLU’s executive director for Washington, said in a news release Thursday. “This is a matter of basic fairness because contraception is a key part of health care for women.” Karen Cooper, NARAL executive director for Washington, called it “outrageous that an organization that fights to protect reproductive freedom is unable to provide basic reproductive health care for its employees.” Regence spokesman Chris Bruzzo said the company had no comment on the lawsuit, but that it has been working to expand access to contraceptive coverage. “Change is under way at Regence,” he said. The lawsuit comes a month after a federal judge ruled that a Seattle drug store chain must cover birth control in its insurance plan, a decision lawyers predicted could have national impact. U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik declared a summary judgment for Jennifer Erickson, a pharmacist who wanted Bartell Drug Co. to cover prescription contraceptives for her and other nonunion employees. Lasnik agreed that women get less complete coverage than men. He declared that a violation of federal law. Bartell, a 50-drugstore chain in the Seattle area, moved immediately to comply. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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