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Elimination of cost-sharing for abortion services proposed

Insurance policies that cover abortion would be required to cover the entire cost of the procedure under provisions of a bill now being debated in the state Legislature.

“This bill is about removing barriers to access to abortion services, regardless of the ability to pay,” said Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, the bill’s main sponsor.

Senate Bill 5242 would require health plans issued or renewed after Jan. 1, 2024, to provide abortion-services without cost-sharing, said staff of the committee Greg Attanasio.

One exception would be a health plan providing coverage for an abortion and offered as a qualified health plan for a health savings account, Attanasio said.

In that scenario, the health carrier would be required to plan for coverage at the minimum level necessary to preserve the tax-exempt status for contributions for the health savings account, he said.

Speaking against the bill was Julie Barrett, founder of Conservative Ladies of Washington. She said if cost-sharing is eliminated for abortion services, someone is going to have to pay for it, whether it is taxpayers, people receiving medical funding or people using insurance coverage.

“We do not have endless funds to draw from the citizens of Washington State,” she said. “It is wrong for taxpayers and those using private insurance to have to shoulder the cost of abortion.”

On the other hand, Alexa Brenner, an organizer for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, said she supports the bill because she has assisted patients in the past with their appointments, and part of the process was discussing the costs.

Brenner said if the patient’s portion of the bill is too high, they then are faced with a difficult decision of moving limited funds around, letting bills go unpaid or even canceling their appointment and trying again when they can afford it, Brenner said.

“People assume folks with private insurance have good insurance so they'll be fine, but the thought of having to come up with an extra two, three, four hundred dollars overnight can cause some panic,” she said. “It's a barrier to care. And Senate Bill 5242 can eliminate this barrier.”

The bill does not require insurance companies to offer abortion coverage, and it does not require any healthcare provider to perform abortions if they have moral objections to the procedure.

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