Anna Shvets

Committee OKs bill requiring insurance companies to pay for abortions

Sam HautGovernment, Headlines

Anna Shvets

House committee approves abortion bill

A bill that would require Medicaid and other health insurance plans to cover abortion services passed the House Health & Human Development Committee with all Democrats and one Republican voting for it.

House Bill 110, sponsored by Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown, D-Newcastle, would make sure that Medicaid and state insurers don’t require deductibles, coinsurances, copayments or any other cost-sharing requirement for the termination of a pregnancy.

HB 110 bill passed with six votes in favor and three on its merits.The lone Republican to vote for it was Rep. Mike Smith, R-Pike Creek.

Smith said that because some people get abortions for rape or incest, he wants those people to not have any financial difficulties accessing an abortion.

“That is between that person and God, not me, that person, and God,” Smith said. “And I have to look at it from a policy application, and I do think in this body, we do go through and tell insurance companies what they need to start covering and I think that’s a nuanced debate that we’re going to continue to do so for the history of time.”

Minor-Brown said there will be an amendment introduced at some point to address technical corrections to the bill. She was not specific about what they were.

It is unclear how expansive the bill’s definition of a termination of a pregnancy is.

The bill gives an exemption for religious employers who ask for an exclusion based on their “bona fide religious beliefs and practices.”

There was extensive public comment for the bill, with 26 people providing comments both in person and online, with 11 speaking against the bill and 14 people speaking in favor of it.

Moira Sheridan, the president of Delaware Right to Life, said House Bill 110 is unnecessary because abortion is already legal in Delaware and women are already able to access abortion funds through Planned Parenthood.

Helen Salita, a campaign manager with the ACLU of Delaware, said they support the legislation because while abortion is legal in Delaware, the financial cost of an abortion, ranging from $500 to $791, is still a barrier for many in the state.

Nandi Randolph, a policy analyst with the Delaware Family Policy Council, said they strongly oppose the bill which – because it has the state assuming all costs for abortions in Medicaid programs – means it “prioritizes killing its preborn citizens, rather than welcoming them into the world.”

Shané Darby, the founder of Black Mothers in Power, said black women are more likely to get an abortion, but are also more likely to face racism in various areas, which in turn impacts their ability to get an abortion.

Pam Price, representing Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Delaware, said that Highmark has some questions about the bill and wants a better definition of the services that need to be covered

Insurers would like to have some restrictions on providing abortion coverage, she said, and would like a clarification in the religious exemption clause that an abortion can’t be denied if the mother’s life is threatened.

Price was unable to finish her comments because speakers were limited to two minutes per person.

The fiscal note for the bill is currently incomplete, but Minor-Brown said that it would be released before the bill goes to the floor.

While the Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of federal funding for abortions in Medicaid programs, the bill may account for this.

It has a section that states if the department believes the bill will adversely affect federal funds, the insurance commissioner may grant an exemption to the minimum extent necessary to make sure the state still gets federal funds.

The bill currently has 22 additional sponsors and cosponsors, all of whom are Democrats. 

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