Today, March 24th, The Boston Globe reported on the immediate negative impact that the health reform law and President Obama’s executive order could have on Massachusetts’ policy on abortion coverage in its state health insurance exchange.
“The executive order Obama is scheduled to sign [today] directs federal administrators to establish guidelines within six months to help states comply with the new law. Under the new federal law, any insurance plans sold in state-based exchanges that offer abortion coverage and have customers who receive federal subsidies must collect two separate premium payments per month — one for the abortion coverage and one for the rest of the premium. The check for the abortion coverage must come from private funds and remain segregated from federal money.
“Insurance plans participating in the state’s exchange — called the Massachusetts Connector — are required to offer abortion coverage, and the state has a system in place to ensure that federal money does not pay for the coverage, as required by federal law. Terry Dougherty, Medicaid director with the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services, said an independent actuary determines the value of every benefit in an individual’s health plan, minus the value of abortion coverage and patient copayments. That amount is submitted to the federal government for partial reimbursement, and the reimbursement is placed in the state general fund. According to the Globe, an abortion procedure is typically valued at less than $1 per enrollee per month.
“A spokesperson for the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans said it is too early to know what effect the federal law could have on companies that sell federally subsidized plans in the Massachusetts exchange. Abortion-rights advocates say the new federal system “will not only be inconvenient for consumers … but could hinder access to abortions by causing insurers to pull out” of the exchanges, the Globe reports. NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts Executive Director Andrea Miller said, “It’s a chilling effect.” She added, “Any time you add additional steps that people have to take in order to obtain health services, you have a drop-off, and you have a burden, even for something like picking up a prescription” (Lazar, Boston Globe, 3/24). The National Partnership for Women and Families Daily Report 3/24/2010