Posted by: sweeneyblog | September 5, 2013

Group Health Refuses to Offer Abortion Coverage in Obamacare Exchanges

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.

No Abortion Coverage from Group Health

No Abortion Coverage from Group Health

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.



  1. Very interesting and most certainly at odds with GHC’s public posture in which the organization represents itself as a bastion of progressive (almost “altruistic”) health care services. I suspected it was about as honest a stance as might be expected from a bank spokesman. In any event, have you queried GHC on their justification for this decision?

    • Their response was that they will provide abortion services but not coverage, meaning that their patients will have to pay out of pocket.

      Here’s their response from Kaiser news.
      “At the time Group Health filed our products, we lacked further regulatory guidance,” Group Health said in a statement. “Group Health determined that in order to ensure full compliance with all requirements, it was advisable to not include pregnancy termination services in our individual products offered through the exchange for 2014.”

      • Thanks for the information. Perhaps the phrasing in the response is too arcane for my primitive intellect, but this seems like dissimulation on the part of GHC to me. They didn’t offer it either for practical reasons (“too much trouble”) or ideological ones. In either case, it is yet another setback for reproductive health. Perhaps, since GHC is supposedly a “cooperative” the members can change the stance of the governing body…just like American voters can change the posture of the US government.

  2. It’s little consolation, but I did hear a group health rep on the radio say that they intended not to charge for abortions, that they simply would pay it, though it would not for now be specifically “covered”

  3. Riley – Why pick on Group Health alone? How many of the other 30+ plans in the new exchange will cover abortion? My suspicion is few – because it is such an uncertain legal area, and such a fraught issue politically. How many members of the Cooperative want their premiums to go towards paying the costs of legal challenges if Group Health guesses wrong about the legal environment?

    As a practical matter, how many people who want an abortion in Washington will be unable to obtain one, especially considering the comment from Glenn above? Planned Parenthood will continue to provide referrals, and people who can;t afford to pay will not be denied due to lack of funds.

    Finally, why harp on this divisive issue when there is no practical reason to do so? This is what Faux News does. Divide and rule. You’re just playing into the hands of those who would exploit emotive issues for pure political purposes. Or doing it yourself.

    • First of all, why pick on Group Health? Because of the 4 companies that are participating in the exchanges, they are the ONLY one that is not offering ANY plans with abortion coverage.

      You are incorrect about people receiving abortions who cannot pay. If you cannot pay, you cannot receive the procedure. Unlike an emergency room, doctors are not required to provide this service in times of need.

      Finally, I don’t think I am harping on this issue. I am letting people know that Group Health, which has a history of exemplary behavior on women’s issues, is taking a giant step backwards. That is newsworthy – so I reported on it.

      • A concise and factual rebuttal to what I suspect is a subtle disinformation campaign undertaken by GHC, this in an attempt to confuse the public about a very specific and important decision. Do you care to speculate (or do you have documentation) of the actual motive for GHC denying this service?

      • I don’t have any documentation so I try not to speculate if I don’t have anything to back it up.

  4. The best argument for single-payer, publicly funded health care is the fact that reproductive health services are denied, and/or hopefully denied by some for religious reasons…it is remarkable that the necessary health care access for 52% of the population can be held hostage by a dominantly male power structure—we have got to stop this nonsense regarding women and their health care needs/access—As a male, I would think myself the most ridiculous human being around to even venture an opinion as to what, when and where a woman might get, or have access to regarding her uniquely female healthcare matters…when will men stop this? My god we men are arrogant pricks.

  5. In other words, the only proper response for men regarding female healthcare access and the rights of women regarding their own healthcare choices is “no comment.”

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