Washington Edges Closer to Mandated Abortion Coverage

Monday, 25 Mar 2013 03:23 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The state of Washington may be close to passing the nation’s first law requiring all insurers to reimburse patients for abortions as part of their maternity-care coverage.

The Reproductive Parity Act has already passed the state House but must clear the Senate, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, meanwhile, has said he will sign it if it reaches his desk.

Seattle Rep. Eileen Cody, a registered nurse who sponsored the bill, said she has signed commitments from 25 of the Senate’s 49 members to support the measure.

“We know we have the votes to pass,” she told the Journal in an interview Sunday. “It’s just a matter of whether it ever comes up for a vote.”

A state Senate health committee will consider the bill next week, taking the first step before it goes to the full floor for a vote.

The bill’s fate may also hinge on Democratic Sen. Rodney Tom, who caucuses with Republicans, giving the GOP a one-seat majority in the Senate for the first time in more than 10 years.

Tom, a fiscally conservative but socially moderate Democrat, says he supports the bill but has not committed to bringing it to a vote.

Washington’s insurers all currently offer abortion coverage, but the new law is designed to make sure that any new providers coming in through state exchanges as part of Obamacare will cover abortions as well.

Washington’s regulations on abortion coverage are markedly different from those in nearly 20 other states, where religious opposition has led to legislation mandating that abortion coverage be restricted by any insurer doing business through state healthcare exchanges.

The American Civil Liberties Union reports some states have moved to ban abortion coverage in the private insurance market as well, or for state employees.

Only New York has considered legislation similar to Washington’s, but it hasn’t “had the groundswell of support that we see in Washington,” Elisabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute, which supports access to abortion, told the Journal.

She said most women pay the average cost of under $500 for their own abortions, while private insurers cover the costs of about 12 percent of abortions. Medicaid pays about 20 percent, the Journal reported.

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