May 6, 2015 — The Texas Senate on Tuesday voted 21-10 to approve a bill (SB 575) that would prohibit most abortion coverage in private health plans, including plans sold through the state's federally operated health insurance marketplace, the Dallas Morning News reports.
After a final vote, the measure will head to the state House, where a similar bill (HB 3130) is under consideration (Martin, Dallas Morning News, 5/5).
The Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) allows states to determine whether plans sold through the marketplace will include abortion coverage. In states that permit abortion coverage, the law requires insurers to segregate funds collected for abortion coverage from other premiums.
Currently, Texas permits marketplace plans to include abortion coverage. Overall, according to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union, insurers in 10 states are banned from covering abortion, and 15 states prohibit insurers from covering abortion in plans sold through the marketplace (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/29).
The bill would allow plans to cover abortion only when the procedure is necessary to save a woman's life or to prevent "substantial impairment of a major bodily function." The bill does not include exemptions for mental health risks (Dallas Morning News, 5/5). Further, the bill does not make exemptions for cases of rape or severe fetal anomalies (Rosenthal, Houston Chronicle, 5/5).
To obtain coverage for an abortion that does not qualify as a medical emergency under the bill, women would have to purchase supplemental insurance plans (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/29).
State Sen. Larry Taylor (R), the bill's author, said women seeking abortions could still obtain the procedure but that they would "have to come up with another means to pay for it." Further, in response to questions about whether supplemental policies would be unaffordable, Taylor suggested that abortion clinics can offer financial assistance or other payment support options (Dallas Morning News, 5/5).
Meanwhile, opponents of the bill asked whether Texas also could prohibit coverage for other procedures that they oppose on moral grounds. State Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D) said, "What if I don't believe in vasectomies?" (Weber, AP/McAllen Monitor, 5/5).
Separately, Sam Richardson, assistant professor at the University of Texas' Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, last month said he does not expect that insurers would offer a supplemental abortion policy and that, if they did, they would "need to price this coverage at a pretty high level because the only people [who] would buy it are people who think that they might ... get an abortion at some point" (Dallas Morning News, 5/5).