Arizona Bill Would Pull Abortion Coverage for All Public Employees

Rachel Larris

Arizona may soon potentially ban health insurance companies that cover any public employee -- from librarians to state workers -- from covering abortion or any health services related to abortion.

Arizona may soon ban health insurance coverage of abortion and abortion-related health services for public employees. 

The text of Senate bill 1305–which was passed by the Senate last week–prohibits any public money directly or indirectly associated with health insurance policies from being used to pay for coverage of “services related to the performance of an abortion.” Under the current language, this ban would deny abortion coverage to all city, county and state employees.

The bill includes exceptions for abortion coverage only if the procedure will save the life of the woman or will “avert substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”

Planned Parenthood of Arizona Public Policy Director Michelle Steinberg says the bill is so broad that “services related to abortion” could result in the exclusion from coverage of a lot more than abortion care. “The language, ‘related to abortion services’ could mean anything the health insurance companies could want it to mean,” Steinberg says. “There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty what would be covered and what would not be covered under this bill.”

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Steinberg gave the example of a case in which a pregnant woman, whose fetus is found to have severe anamolies, could be required to pay out of pocket for all the testing and related doctor’s visits needed to determine whether the pregnancy will advance.

Jolinda Nestor, communications coordinator for Planned Parenthood of Utah also points out that in addition to hindering access for women to health services, the bill also takes local control away from cities and municipalities in determining what insurance coverage to provide their workers.

“The decision about what insurance and benefits public employees receive should be left up to their employer — be it the city of Tucson or the town of Buckeye,” Nestor said.

Steinberg said that “chances are” it will pass the House.

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