Abortion Health

Virginia Senate Passes Bill to Expand Abortion Access

On Friday, the Virginia state Senate passed a bill to remove the prohibition from the state code that bans private insurance plans on the state’s health insurance exchange from covering abortions, except in narrow circumstances. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond).

This bill does not mandate that insurance carriers cover abortion care, only removes the block that kept them from doing so. Because of the Hyde Amendment, federal subsidies that help cover the cost of insurance plans on the exchange cannot cover abortion care excpe tin the case of rape, incest, or a threat to the patient’s life. 

The existing ban on abortion coverage was created in 2011, after the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed. The ACA barred abortion care from being requred as part of an essential benefits package. This allowed states to pass strict restrictions for plans in their state exchanges.

“It is government overreach into private health insurance plans,” said Del. Sally Hudson (D-Charlottesville), who is the sponsor of the House version of this bill. “Because what the ban does is prohibit any private health insurer that does business on our state exchange from offering a plan including abortion coverage that any private patient could purchase.”

This bill is a critical step in expanding access to care. While abortion is currently covered by many employer plans, the plans in the Virginia marketplace exchange are typically used by low-income people who struggle to afford health care, particularly women, transgender people, and non-binary people of color.

“Today, Virginia moved one step closer to ending an unnecessary law that restricts Virginians’ reproductive health care options,” McClellan said in a statement. “Virginians deserve to be able to choose whatever health plan meets their needs, but that option is not available to Virginians covered by the exchange.”

The passage of this bill in the Senate comes only days after the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a milestone wherein many advocates are emphasizing the need to move beyond “rights”, towards an expansion of abortion access. 

Sources: Virginia Legislative Information System 1/13/21; The Daily Progress 1/24/21; WAVY Virginia Politics 1/22/21

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