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Rhode Island Man Files Federal Lawsuit Over Concerns About Abortion Coverage

Rhode Island Man Files Federal Lawsuit Over Concerns About Abortion Coverage

January 20, 2015 — A Rhode Island man on Thursday filed a lawsuit in federal court against the state's health insurance marketplace for not including any plans that do not cover abortion services beyond cases of rape, incest and endangerment to a woman's life, the Providence Journal reports (Salit, Providence Journal, 1/15).

Background

The Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) does not prohibit abortion coverage and lets insurers determine whether they will offer it. However, the law requires health plans to segregate money collected for abortion coverage from other premiums. Insurers are not required to segregate the money for abortion coverage in cases of rape, incest or endangerment to the life of the woman (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/24/14).

The ACA requires marketplaces in all states by 2017 to include at least one multistate plan that does not cover abortion services beyond cases of rape, incest and endangerment to a woman's life. Rhode Island is one of four states that does not currently have such a marketplace plan available, according to the Journal.

Lawsuit Details

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court by the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of an anonymous man, identified as John Doe in court papers.

According to the suit, the man opposes abortion because of his religious beliefs. He elected not to sign up for coverage because there was not a plan on HealthSource RI that that did not cover abortion services beyond cases of rape, incest and life endangerment. The suit alleges that the man now faces a federal penalty because he did not purchase coverage.

According to ADF senior counsel Casey Mattox, the plaintiff has filed a motion to remain confidential because he is HIV-positive and needs medical coverage, which Mattox said was important to the case.

The lawsuit is supported by the Rhode Island Right to Life Committee. The committee's executive director, Barth Bracy, filed a similar lawsuit against Connecticut's marketplace. However, he dropped the suit after the marketplace during the 2015 open enrollment period began including plans that do not include abortion coverage beyond cases of rape, incest and life endangerment.

Meanwhile, Gov. Gina Raimondo's (D) administration said in a statement, "Governor Raimondo and [HealthSource RI] Director [Anya Rader] Wallack understand that this is a sensitive issue for many Rhode Islanders. HealthSource RI is working on addressing coverage options" (Providence Journal, 1/15).