Disappointing news from the Insurance Commissioner’s office today, Group Health has refused to offer abortion coverage for any of its insurance plans in the new health exchanges available Oct. 1st. Group Health, which started as a co-operative designed to remove the bureaucracy and corporate greed from health care, now is refusing to offer ANY plans that include this vital service.
I reached out to our local Planned Parenthood to get some insight and the reaction was fierce. “Mt Baker Planned Parenthood is very disappointed with Group Health’s decision not to cover abortion services in its individual care plans,” says MBPP Public Policy Manager Stephanie Kountouros. “While the insurance provider claims that its patients will be able to receive abortion care in Group Health medical centers, that option may not be available or easily accessible to all patients. The lack of coverage is going to be confusing and yet another obstacle toward women receiving the care they need and deserve.”
The reason this is possible? Sen. Doug Ericksen. Okay, not just him but you will remember that one of the key goals for Sen. Kevin Ranker and many Democrats in Olympia this year was a bill called the Reproductive Parity Act. I covered it here, but the essence is that if an insurance plan covered maternity services, it should cover abortions – simple as that.
When the Republicans took control of the State Senate, they stated that ANY law having to do with women’s health would not be brought up for a vote. The Democrats tried repeatedly to use procedural maneuvers to bring the bill up but the Republicans (including Ericksen) blocked them at every turn. Eventually, the Reproductive Parity Act died allowing a loophole for Group Health to wiggle through.
What is most disappointing is that Group Health, of all insurance providers, would do something like this. They have a long history of respect for women’s health decisions and to refuse to provide this coverage – forcing patients to pay out of pocket – they are restricting abortion to those who can afford it. That is a dangerous precedent and I hope Group Health will reconsider their decision.