June 12, 2012 — A Connecticut committee on Friday unanimously agreed that abortion should be considered an essential health benefit covered by plans in the state's health insurance exchange, the Connecticut Mirror reports (Rabe Thomas, Connecticut Mirror, 6/8).
Essential health benefits describe the minimum coverage that health plans will have to offer in selling policies through the state-based health insurance exchanges, which will launch in 2014 under the federal health reform law (PL 111-148). The law outlines 10 broad categories of coverage -- such as hospitalization, maternity care, prescription drugs and pediatrics -- that should be included.
In a bulletin released last year, HHS said it will allow states to decide which specific benefits it will require health plans to cover. The bulletin said states could choose one of four categories of health insurance plans as a benchmark: one of the state's three largest small-group plans; one of the state's three largest health plans for state employees; one of the three largest health plans offered under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan; or the largest HMO operating in the state's commercial market (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/19/11).
Members of the advisory committee for Connecticut's Insurance Exchange Health Plan said Friday's decision puts them ahead of other states in deciding whether abortion coverage is an essential benefit. The topic is likely to come up for debate elsewhere this summer as other states consider which benefits to include, according to the Mirror.
All private health plans in Connecticut already cover elective abortion care, according to Victoria Veltri, the state's health care advocate. "It's a matter of health," Veltri said, adding, "We wanted to protect a woman's right to choose."
Although no one spoke during the public comment portion of the panel meeting, some abortion-rights opponents said later that they dislike the decision. Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League, expressed concern that the costs of abortion care will be transferred to other policyholders (Connecticut Mirror, 6/8).