Last year's landmark federal health-care law requires states to set up the exchanges to provide a marketplace where small businesses and individuals can buy coverage.
However, some abortion-rights proponents say that federal law already restricts taxpayer funding for abortion coverage and that this bill goes further than federal law by restricting abortion coverage in private policies.
Pennsylvania allows exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother, and an individual could still buy supplemental abortion coverage outside the exchange.
From Planned Parenthood PA Advocates: Senate Committee Votes to Further Endanger Women’s Health and Safety in Pennsylvania
Two days after the November 2nd election, President Pro Tempore Senator Scarnati was quoted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cautioning his colleagues to focus on statewide fiscal matters and avoid divisive fights over abortion rights. On just the second day of legislative session, that commitment to Pennsylvania voters was broken when the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee voted to ban private insurance plans sold in the Pennsylvania health insurance exchange from covering even medically necessary abortion services.
“Rather than focusing on job creation and stimulating the economy, the State Senate is pulling a bait and switch and has made clear that government interference in private medical decisions is their top priority,” said Sari Stevens, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates. “Pennsylvania voters are not interested in reopening the debate around abortion. Our lawmakers should focus on improving our health care system and stop using women’s health as a divisive issue.”
The debate over private insurance coverage of abortion in the health insurance exchanges was settled by U.S. Senator Ben Nelson, a staunch opponent of abortion. The Nelson amendment stipulates that women who want to use their own money to purchase a health insurance plan that covers abortion services must send a separate payment so the funding for abortion coverage is completely separate and paid entirely by the individual.
“Banning abortion coverage in transactions between a private company and an individual is political activism of the worst kind,” said Stevens. “The Republican majorities elected in November have already begun straying from the platform on which they were elected, and Pennsylvania voters will take notice.”
An estimated 80% of private insurance plans currently cover abortion services. This bill will dramatically change the status quo for abortion services in Pennsylvania by taking coverage away from thousands of women who may enroll in the state insurance exchange except in the cases where the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest, or where the life of the woman is in danger. Many women require abortion services due to complications during a wanted pregnancy when something has gone horribly wrong. These exceptions to receive abortion coverage are very narrow and make no exception for catastrophic health situations such as paralysis, organ failure and infertility.
Stevens cautioned that the health care exchange ban will endanger the health and safety of Pennsylvania women, “The passage of SB3 will continue to marginalize abortion service from the regulation and oversight of the medical and insurance industry. Pennsylvania law should support the provision of safe, legal abortion and not stigmatize the procedure and push it into the hands of dangerous practitioners who threaten and endanger women’s lives and health.”
“We urge Senator Scarnati to uphold his promise to Pennsylvania voters, put divisive politics aside and work to improve the Pennsylvania economy and put Pennsylvanians back to work,” Stevens concluded.
Planned Parenthood has a link here to contact PA Senators.