Abortion Coverage Debate Moves To The States

The debate over insurance coverage for abortion is moving to the state level, with "lawmakers in at least six states" pushing for a ban on the coverage that goes beyond provisions in the new health law, The Wall Street Journal reports. "The final legislation requires insurers that sell plans in new government-run exchanges to segregate payments for abortion coverage from other premiums to ensure government subsidies won't go toward the procedure. Still, many abortion opponents say that didn't go far enough. So lawmakers are turning to another provision in the legislation that says states can choose to prevent plans offered through their exchanges from covering abortion altogether. That would likely affect most individual and small-group plans in a state, starting when the exchanges launch in 2014. The new state-level proposals are likely to rekindle abortion as a political issue in November elections."

But "[i]t's not clear how much state restrictions on abortion coverage in their exchanges would affect abortion access. Different studies have found different levels of coverage for abortion among private plans. One from [the] Guttmacher [Institute] said that 13% of abortions in 2001 were directly billed to insurers, though the institute says this may not give a full picture, since covered women may pay up front and seek reimbursement. Many women seeking abortion are uninsured or have Medicaid, which generally doesn't cover abortion" (Mathews, 4/8).

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