Affordable Care Act, healthcare, Michigan Democrats, War on Women, Women — September 24, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Michigan Democrats introduce bills to improve women’s access to healthcare


Bills would require insurers to offer the abortion rider women must purchase separately to have coverage under state law.

If Michigan is going to force women to buy a separate abortion insurance rider in case they’re ever raped or must have an abortion to protect their health — or simply to exercise their constitutional right to choose — the least the state can do is to require every insurer to offer women this rider. Without the availability of insurance coverage, the cost to women and their health is just too high.

That’s the idea behind legislation introduced by State Senator Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) and state Representatives Pam Faris (D-Clio) and Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores), which would mandate that all health insurance companies that offer group and individual healthcare coverage must provide the option to purchase abortion service coverage.

In December 2013, House and Senate Republicans passed a law banning health insurance companies in Michigan from covering abortion services unless a separate health insurance rider is purchased. Currently, only seven of the 42 health insurers in the state offer such a policy, and those that do only offer it as an add-on to an employer-provided plan and not for individual plans.

Senator Warren explains why this new legislation is necessary.

This sexist and discriminatory law requires women to buy an extra insurance policy just to have comprehensive reproductive healthcare coverage, but does not require this separate policy to actually be sold. As a result, the majority of women in Michigan cannot get full coverage. That’s why we’re introducing legislation to require any company that offers health insurance to make this extra rider available.

Women in Michigan who buy insurance individually or on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) healthcare exchange can’t buy this coverage, nor can women whose employers offer health insurance through any of the 35 health insurance companies in Michigan that don’t offer the rider.

According to Rep. Faris, forcing women to buy additional coverage is bad enough. Not having the option to buy the coverage is even worse.

Without these riders, women who need medical help during a miscarriage, a complication or who need an abortion to save her health have to bear the cost themselves, which can cost thousands of dollars, and they will have to pay out-of-pocket.

The abortion insurance rider law requires women to buy or ask their employer to purchase the extra rider in case she may need insurance to pay for an “abortion.” However, medical billers often use the term “abortion” to apply to miscarriages as well as elective and inevitable abortions, meaning that women who need medical intervention will have to absorb that cost themselves.

The law also makes no exceptions for a woman who needs necessary medical care because a fetus is malformed, has a genetic abnormality, her own health is at risk or because she became pregnant following a rape.

This means the proposed legislation isn’t simply about a women’s right to choose, as important as that is. It’s about protecting women’s health.

Beyond its harmful effect on women, the unjust law also threatens Michigan’s economy. Michigan struggles to maintain its highly educated young people once they finish college, and many professionals may seek employment in other states that have women-friendly policies. I personally know at least one young professional who is considering moving elsewhere because of laws like this.

Rep. Roberts says the bills introduced this week are just a stopping point along the way to fully repealing the women’s healthcare rider law.

Make no mistake – our goal is to completely overturn this harmful and discriminatory law, so that women can make their own best healthcare choices without interference from those who believe women shouldn’t make their own healthcare decisions. But until we achieve that, the very least we can do is make sure this coverage is as accessible as possible.

This is one more reason why women and the men who support their rights must vote on November 4th. The only way to make sure Michigan’s Legislature takes the rights and needs of women seriously is to support pro-women candidates — and tell those who vote against the best interests of women that their services are no longer wanted here.

[Photo credit: Mikasi | Flickr]