Afternoon Jolt

Wednesday Jolt: Half of Insurance Plans In State Exchange So Far Won't Cover Abortion

According to reproductive rights groups, five of the ten health-care companies that have filed to provide health insurance on the state's health exchange would exclude or severely restrict coverage for abortion.

By Afternoon Jolt May 22, 2013


Afternoon Jolt

UPDATE: Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest has an update on the insurance situation. Since our first report, two insurance companies—Kaiser, which is a part of the insurance exchange, and Health Net of Oregon, which is a private plan outside the exchange, have indicated they plan to amend their applications to include abortion coverage. Initially, five plans, including two inside the exchange and three outside it (which are essentially private plans employees get through their employers) indicated that they planned to exclude abortion coverage.  

UPDATE NO. 2: Since yesterday, the two insurance companies inside the exchange that initially did not offer abortion services have changed their minds and now plan to do so.

Today's loser: Washington state women. 

Reproductive rights groups including Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, and Legal Voice say that five of the ten insurance plans that have filed to participate in Washington state's health benefit exchange either exclude coverage for abortion or, in one case, cover abortions only in cases of rape, incest, or when carrying a pregnancy to term would seriously endanger the life or health of the woman. 

The news, assuming it's accurate—a spokeswoman for state insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler said she was hearing "conflicting information" and would provide PubliCola with a list of the insurance providers and their abortion restrictions later today—is further evidence that the Reproductive Parity Act, which would require insurers that cover maternity care to also cover abortions, is necessary to ensure Washington women's access to the full range of reproductive care. 

The RPA died earlier this year after state senate health care committee chair Sen. Randi Becker (R-2, Eatonville) did not move it forward to a vote in her committee.

Opponents of the RPA argued that it was unnecessary because existing Washington state insurers already provide abortion coverage. Today's news shows that existing policies are no guarantee that companies (which, after all, have a financial incentive to cover as little as possible) will continue to cover abortion in the future.

"While some said patients’ rights advocates were crying wolf, we now know the threat was real, and it is imminent,” Legal Voice director Lisa M. Stone said in a statement. 


Twenty-one states have passed legislation that bans insurance companies in the new exchanges from paying for abortions.

Gov. Jay Inslee has asked legislators to revisit the act in their special session, but the senate, dominated by Republicans who have said they want to avoid discussing policy bills while the budget is still unfinished, seems unlikely to do so.

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