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Wash. Lawmakers Try Again on Bill Requiring Abortion Coverage

January 15, 2014 — For the third consecutive year, Democrats in Washington's House are pushing a measure (HB 2148) that would require health plans that cover maternity care to also cover abortion services, the AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.

The state House's Health Care and Wellness Committee heard debate on the bill on Monday.

Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest CEO Elaine Rose testified that the measure would ensure that health decisions would be made by women, "not insurance companies, not the government, not [lawmakers], but women."

However, Michael Norton, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, said, "I don't believe the citizens of the state of Washington, no matter how one might stand on the issue of abortion, want to feel forced into purchasing a health insurance policy that covers and includes abortion." He added, "Litigation would naturally result" if the bill were enacted.

Unique Legislation

If passed, the measure would make Washington the first state to require health plans to cover abortion. By contrast, several states have passed laws barring health plans from offering abortion coverage in the health insurance marketplaces established under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148).

In Washington, all but two insurers -- Group Health and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan -- selling health plans through the state's health insurance marketplace already meet the law's requirements, according to the state's Office of the Insurance Commissioner spokesperson Stephanie Marquis. In Kaiser's case, its plans cover surgical abortions but not medication abortions.

Marquis also noted that eight multistate Blue Cross plans offered in Washington through Premera do not include abortion coverage and would not be required to do so under the proposed measure, per federal requirements.

Bill's Prospects

The bill faces "questionable" prospects in the Senate, where similar legislation stalled last year after passing the House.

State Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom (D) said Monday that while he personally supports the measure, other issues likely will take precedence (La Corte, AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1/13).