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7 health insurers tell state they'll offer abortion coverage

By Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

March 07--LANSING -- With the law requiring women to purchase a rider to their health insurance plans for abortion coverage taking effect next week, seven insurance companies have filed paperwork with the state to let it know they will provide the optional riders.

The number of people who will be eligible to get the coverage is relatively small, according to health plan experts. And the cost to women who choose the coverage will be small -- ranging from 12 cents to $3.84 per year.

Michigan residents who are covered by Medicare and Medicaid -- about 3.3 million people -- can't get abortion riders because federally funded programs don't offer the riders. Another 1.2 million people are uninsured in the state, said Richard Murdock, executive director of the Michigan Association of Health Plans.

About 55% of the remaining Michiganders -- roughly 3 million people -- get their insurance from companies that self-insure, and aren't subject to the law passed last year requiring insurance companies to offer abortion coverage only as a separate rider.

Another 275,000 people get individual insurance plans, said Caleb Buhs, spokesman for the state Department of Insurance and Financial Services, and none of the seven companies that have the riders offer individual plans.

That leaves roughly 2.2 million people in the state who would be eligible to purchase the optional rider, and that doesn't account for gender or child-bearing age splits that would reduce the number even more.

"You keep peeling the onion and you get to a very small population of people who would want this," Murdock said.

The new law, which passed after Michigan Right to Life collected enough signatures to put the issue before the Legislature, goes into effect Thursday. The law requires women who want abortion coverage in their health plans to buy a rider. They would have to have the additional insurance in place before they know they are pregnant -- even through rape or incest. The group went through the petition drive because Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed similar legislation the previous year.

Abortion rights supporters have decried the legislation, calling it both "rape insurance," and cruel, forcing women to plan for things like the possibility of having to terminate a wanted pregnancy because of fetal abnormalities.

But abortion opponents -- who used the quirk in Michigan's election law to get three other anti-abortion issues through the Legislature without gubernatorial support -- said no one should have to contribute to the cost of an abortion, either through taxpayer dollars or insurance premiums. Similar statutes have passed in eight other states.

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Insurance companies had to file plans with the state Insurance and Financial Services department showing they planned to change their group plans to add the optional riders.

The insurance companies that will offer the riders, Buhs said, are: All Savers Insurance, Blue Care Network, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Nippon Life Insurance, Physicians Health Plan, PHP Insurance and UnitedHealthCare Insurance.

It's unclear how many companies could have set up the abortion riders because, until now, the state didn't track the number of companies that covered abortion in their insurance plans.

The number of abortions in Michigan reached a high of 49,098 in 1987, but decreased steadily and hit a low of 22,357 in 2009. In 2012, some 23,230 abortions were performed in the state.

About 70% of women who get abortions pay for them out of pocket, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The cost ranges from $300 to $1,700.

Contact Kathleen Gray: 517-372-8661, kgray99@freepress.com or @michpoligal on Twitter.

___

(c)2014 the Detroit Free Press

Visit the Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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