Wash. Senate Panel To Consider Bill To Protect Abortion Coverage

March 26, 2013 — The Washington Senate Health Care Committee on April 1 is set to hold a hearing on a measure (HB 1044) that would require health plans in the state to cover abortion services, the AP/USA Today reports.

The measure is designed to ensure the availability of abortion coverage once provisions of the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) take effect in 2014. Under the ACA, private health plans in states' health insurance exchanges must segregate the premiums they collect for abortion coverage from other payments, which could serve as a disincentive to offer it, the AP/USA Today reports.

The law also permits states to enact additional restrictions on abortion coverage; to date, 16 have done so, according to the AP/USA Today. The 16 states have joined five others that already had laws in place to prohibit or restrict abortion coverage.

Although supporters of the Washington bill are confident that it has enough votes to pass the full Senate, it is not clear whether Senate leaders will bring it to the floor, according to USA Today. The House already has approved the measure (Kaminsky, AP/USA Today, 3/23).

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom (D) supports the measure but has not said whether he would bring it for a vote before the full chamber. "As we get into budgets, a lot of things get tied up," Tom said, adding that the committee chair will decide the next steps after the hearing.

Gov. Jay Inslee (D) has said he would sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk (Millman, Wall Street Journal, 3/24).