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   After website issues caused a slow start, new data from the federal government shows enrollment in health-care plans through federal and state online marketplaces is taking off, particularly when it comes to young women.
   Laura Burbank, the lead certified application councilor for Planned Parenthood of St. Louis says more insured, young, women today will mean a healthier Missouri in the future.  "Women and families are going to have a lot more options to take care of themselves and their families," Burbank said.  "And that's going to really have long-term health impacts on our community."
   Burbank says she's not surprised to see so many young women taking advantage of the Affordable Care Act, because of features such as preventive care, maternity services and prescription birth control with no co-pay. "Having them included at no cost really kind of frees women up to be able to make those health-care choices for themselves," she said.
   According to the federal data, nearly 55,000 Missourians already have signed up for a marketplace plan. Nationwide, 55 percent of the 3.3 million new enrollees are women, with one in three of those who signed up in January younger than age 35.  
   Open enrollment ends March 31.
 
Published in Health & Fitness

   WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S Solicitor General Donald Verrilli says employer challenges to the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act will likely be decided in the Supreme Court term that begins next month.

   Dozens of employers have said that providing contraceptive coverage would violate their religious beliefs.

   In a panel discussion Thursday, Verrilli predicted that the case could hinge on the justices' interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. He said the federal law declares that "government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion unless the government has a compelling interest, and the burden imposed is the least restrictive means of achieving that interest."

   Verilli says at issue is whether corporations have religious rights, whether the burden on them is substantial, whether government has a compelling interest in making contraceptives available, and whether the mandate is the least restrictive means of doing so.

   Lower courts have issued conflicting rulings, with some blocking enforcement of the mandate until the issues are decided.

Published in National News

   The manufacturer of the Plan B One Step morning-after contraceptive has been granted exclusive rights by the FDA to market their drug over-the-counter without age restrictions. The decision was released earlier this week.

   The Food and Drug Administration approved Teva Pharmaceuticals' Plan B One Step for over the counter sale...no prescription or proof of age required.  In its decision, the FDA granted a three year period during which Teva can sell its' single tablet product exclusively on pharmacy shelves, while generic drugs will still require a prescription for young women 16 and younger.

   Most metro St. Louis pharmacies carry Teva's Plan B, which is a two-pill dosage and some already have the Plan B One Step in the pharmacy. The FDA decision will now move that product on to the store shelves.

Published in Local News

 JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Attorney General Chris Koster says he won't appeal a federal court ruling striking down a Missouri law that exempted moral objectors from an insurance requirement to cover birth control.

But Koster does want a judge to revise the ruling, so that religious institutions can receive the same exceptions they currently have under federal law.

At issue is a law enacted by Missouri's Republican-led Legislature last year that requires insurers to issue policies without contraception coverage if people or employers assert that birth control violates their "moral, ethical or religious beliefs."

A judge ruled last month that the Missouri law conflicted with an insurance requirement under President Barack Obama's health care law.

Koster, a Democrat, said Thursday that the Republican-backed bill "is just plain foolish."

Published in Local News

 JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Attorney General Chris Koster wants some clarification from a federal judge who struck down a Missouri law exempting moral objectors from mandatory birth control insurance coverage.

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Koster's office released a statement Thursday saying the ruling earlier this month has created uncertainties for insurers and individuals. He wants the judge to clarify the intended scope of the decision.

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Koster released his statement the same day that House Speaker Tim Jones filed a resolution urging the attorney general to appeal the case.

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Last year, the Republican-led Legislature overrode a veto by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon to enact a law requiring insurers to issue policies without contraception coverage if individuals or employers say it violates their "moral, ethical or religious beliefs."

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A judge ruled that it conflicted with a federal requirement for contraception coverage.

Published in Local News

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