Thousands of HealthSource RI subscribers lost medical coverage for abortion this year, and most had no idea this was happening.
Under new policies mandated by Governor Gina Raimondo, insurers must now offer one plan that does not cover abortion at every level in which they offer a plan that does. As a result of the Governor’s actions and a minor change in the law that allows insurers to re-enroll subscribers into new health plans if their previous plan no longer exists, 9,000 out of 32,000 families have lost this crucial coverage.
Raimondo made two decisions earlier this year that lead to this crisis. First, she settled the Doe v. Burwell lawsuit when she didn’t have to. Doe, who chose to remain anonymous because of his HIV+ status, claimed that he was unable, due to his religious beliefs, to contribute money to any health plan that covered abortion, and that his needs as an HIV+ man meant that waiting until 2017 for the one plan that does not cover abortion mandated under federal law was not practical.
Doe was represented in his lawsuit by the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and supported by both RI Right to Life and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence. It was far from certain that Doe and the ADF would win the suit since HealthSource RI was operating fully in accordance with Federal law and accommodations had been offered to Doe.
But Raimondo caved, and caved hard. After settling a case she did not have to, she went further than existing federal law and submitted legislation mandating that insurers offer multiple plans that omit abortion coverage. Every insurer was forced to offer a plan at every tier of coverage. Federal law mandates that at least one plan on a state exchange offer no coverage for abortion. Raimondo insisted on what amounts to nine plans.
All insurers on the HealthSource RI exchange had to roll out new plans. Two insurers decided to modify existing plans as well, which meant that many health plan subscribers had to be moved to whichever new plans were deemed most similar to their old plan. Whether or not the new plan covered abortion was not a consideration.
According to the Providence Journal, “Out of HealthSource’s three insurers, two mapped subscribers into plans with limited abortion coverage — Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island and Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island. United Healthcare did not.”
Now, 9,000 families are without abortion coverage, unless they change their enrollment by December 23. Many more people, when looking at the new plans on offer, may switch into plans that do not cover abortion – not because they are anti-choice, but because some of the anti-choice plans might appear to be cheaper.
Figuring out which plans are cheaper is a difficult, if not impossible task. There is the monthly fee to consider, but there are also differences among plans in terms of deductibles, medication costs and co-pays. Ultimate cost may depend more on usage than monthly contributions. Figuring out how much a family saves by choosing an abortion free plan may be an exercise in futility, even though the law requires such plans to be cheaper, if only by a few cents.
Nobody plans on having an abortion, so abortion coverage is often not a big consideration when choosing a healthcare plan. Those who may find themselves most at risk of discovering they are suddenly out of pocket for abortion expenses are young adults covered under their parent’s healthcare plan until age 26. Others at risk include couples who might want to have a baby, but encounter a crisis at a late stage. Costs associated with additional testing and termination of a nonviable late term pregnancy can be in the tens of thousands of dollars and require a hospital stay.
As a result, some families will face the kind of financial ruin that Obamacare was instituted to prevent.
This is the kind of information that may have been revealed had Raimondo introduced her legislation openly, as a bill submitted to the General Assembly to be debated and commented on by the public. Instead, the governor slipped these changes into the budget as an eleventh hour amendment and with as little fanfare as possible. It worked: the measure passed with little outcry.
Just before Governor Raimondo signed the budget into law, mandating the changes that have resulted in thousands losing abortion coverage, Barth Bracy, executive director of RI Right to Life, said, “Due to the complexity of Obamacare, and its implementation in Rhode Island, neither the media nor our opponents at Planned Parenthood and in the pro-abortion caucus of the General Assembly, yet appear to understand the extent of our victory.”
I guess now we do.
If Governor Raimondo is truly a pro-choice candidate, she has a strange way of showing it. No recent RI governor has been nearly as successful in stripping families of their reproductive rights.