A bill filed Friday in the Delaware House would require Medicaid and other health insurers to cover abortion services without requiring deductibles, coinsurance, copayment or any other cost-sharing requirements.
House Bill 110, sponsored by House Majority Whip Melissa Minor-Brown, would also have an exemption for religious employers who ask for an exclusion based on their “bona fide religious beliefs and practices.”
The bill would give the State Employee Benefits Committee the power to make sure that carriers are giving state workers access to abortion services.
Republican legislators oppose the bill.
Rep. Ruth Briggs King, D-Georgetown, said that she thinks the bill could make insurance companies less likely to work in Delaware.
“We don’t have that many insurance providers working in this state because of all these things we keep adding on and making them do, which ultimately costs them money…I don’t know how many will look at this and say ‘ok, this is another reason not to make Delaware citizens one of our clients,’” Briggs King said.
Sen. Bryant Richardson, R-Laurel, said that he is against the bill because of his opposition to abortion and believes it would violate the Hyde Amendment, though he said he doesn’t have a problem going against federal statute at times.
The Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of federal funding for abortions in Medicaid programs.
HB 110 seems to 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.
Briggs King said that she interprets this part of the bill as being necessary to save federal funds to the state if the bill doesn’t work out.
“What they’re saying is if they’re gonna lose federal funds because Delaware wants to use money to do this, they will shove this program aside to save those other funds,” Briggs King said. “That’s how I read it…that’s for discussion. I have to make sure I understand … that our federal funds could be in jeopardy.”
Minor-Brown said in a press release that the bill helps people who want to get abortions but can’t currently afford them.
“The lack of insurance coverage creates a barrier to services for low- and moderate-income women, many of whom already are struggling with access to reproductive care,” Minor-Brown said. “HB 110 will tear down those barriers in Delaware and ensure that no one is denied the reproductive care they need and deserve.”
If signed into law, the bill would take effect Jan. 1, 2024. It has 21 cosponsors and additional sponsors, all of whom are Democrats, which may guarantee its passage.
It does not yet have a fiscal note saying how much it will cost the state to implement.
The bill only needs a simple majority to pass, and the Delaware House has a Democrat majority and the Delaware Senate has a supermajority.
The bill is on the agenda of Wednesday’s House Health & Human Development Committee. Watch it by registering here.
Richardson said he isn’t sure whether he will try to add exceptions to the bill or just let it pass.
“Sometimes when you amend something, you make it a little bit more palatable,” Richardson said. “But if you’re totally opposed to the bill anyway, maybe you don’t want to try to make a little bit more palatable…I don’t know, I’m gonna have to really look at it, examine it, talk to some other folks and try to decide whether or not I would try to amend the bill.”
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