OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Abortion rights supporters and opponents packed a Washington state House hearing Thursday and debated a measure that would require insurers to pay for the procedure.
Supporters call the bill the Reproductive Parity Act and say it’s intended to preserve existing abortion coverage once new health insurance rules come into effect under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
Rep. Eileen Cody, D-West Seattle, the bill’s sponsor, says the proposal is needed because the Affordable Care Act will create red tape that could tempt insurers to drop abortion from their plans.
Under Cody’s measure, insurers who provide maternity care, which is required in Washington state, will also have to pay for abortions.
Starting next year, insurers will be required to collect two sets of premiums, one for abortion coverage and another for all other care.
Cody said she is unaware of any carrier contemplating dropping abortion coverage.
At least 17 states have passed laws prohibiting insurance plans available for purchase on the state health care exchanges that will be part of the federal health care law from covering abortion.
This measure would make Washington the first to do the opposite, though two federally mandated multi-state insurance plans, as well as those offered by providers claiming religious or conscience-based exemptions, would be excluded.
Elaine Rose, CEO of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, said that other states are considering similar legislation to Washington’s but that she is not aware of such bills having been introduced.
Opponents of House Bill 1044 used the hearing to say it was wrong to compel businesses and women who oppose abortion to pay for coverage for a procedure they equate with murder.