Traverse City Record-Eagle


December 8, 2013

Few abortions covered with insurance in Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — If lawmakers vote to restrict insurance coverage of abortions in Michigan, it would affect a small number of abortions because the vast majority already are paid for out of pocket.

Of the roughly 23,000 reported abortions in the state last year — the second-fewest in 30 years — health insurance covered 739, or 3.3 percent, according to state statistics.

Low-income women on Medicaid already must pay out of pocket for abortions except when their life is at risk or in cases of rape or incest. Other women getting abortions are uninsured or their insurance doesn't cover abortions. Others have plans that allow abortions, but they might not want their employer or family to find out.

Under a Right to Life-backed initiative expected to be approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature soon, employers and others would have to buy extra insurance known as a rider to cover almost all abortions. Their primary plan could pay only if an abortion is needed to save the woman's life but not to protect her health or in cases of rape or incest.

The measure can become law without the signature of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who vetoed similar legislation last year.

A thrust behind the legislation is keeping taxpayer-subsidized plans on Michigan's new insurance marketplace from covering abortions, an option for states under the federal health care law. Yet the state says none of the 73 plans being offered to individuals covers elective or voluntary abortions. Three of the 68 small employer plans do and are sold by one insurer — United Healthcare Life Insurance Co. — said Caleb Buhs, spokesman for the Department of Insurance and Financial Services.

So the initiative will have a bigger practical effect on private plans sold outside the exchange.

Under the measure, employers barred from covering abortions in their primary plans could buy optional supplemental abortion coverage if they notify all employees, including telling them that the abortion insurance may be used by a dependent without notice to the employee. Insurers and HMOs wouldn't be required to offer abortion riders.

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