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Delaware House approves plan to mandate abortion coverage

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(The Center Square) — Delaware lawmakers are advancing a plan that would require public and private insurers to cover abortions, but critics say the move is unfair to taxpayers who object to the procedure.

The legislation, which the House of Representatives approved, would require all health benefit plans delivered or issued for Medicaid, private health insurance plans, and state employee insurance plans to cover reproductive services related to the termination of pregnancy.

Democrats who pushed the plan through the House on Thursday on a largely party-line vote argue that joining other states in requiring insurance carriers to cover abortion services will help alleviate “constraints and stigma” associated with the procedure, which is legal under state law.

“Delawareans deserve to be empowered by their ability to make a healthcare choice that will best serve them,” House Majority Leader Melissa Minor-Brown, a New Castle Democrat, said in a statement. “They should not be forced to struggle during a time when they are vulnerable and seeking help.”

Under the bill, Medicaid and private healthcare insurers would be required to cover up to $750 for abortion services beginning Jan. 1, 2025. The requirements would cost taxpayers $250,000 to implement and about $500,000 annually to provide the services, according to the Controller General’s Office. The state agency’s analysis didn’t examine the impact on private insurance ratepayers.

Supporters like the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware argue that authorizing abortion care through Medicaid, private, and state insurance will help break down socioeconomic barriers and address racial disparities in reproductive health.

“Real access to abortion care means that people from all walks of life — young people, low-income people, those who live far from medical providers, and disabled people — are able to access care,” the ACLU said in a statement.

But the move faces pushback from critics who argue that the state and private insurers shouldn’t be subsidizing abortion care, especially when some taxpayers have religious or personal objections to the procedure.

“I think it is unfair for taxpayers that are opposed to this procedure to have to pay for this,” state Rep. Charles Postles, R-Milford, said Thursday during a debate on the bill.

Rep. Valerie Jones Giltner, R-Georgetown, points out that even cancer patients are subject to cost-sharing insurance fees and said the Legislature needs to “stop taking politically motivated actions that drive costs higher.”

“To say that there should be no deductible, no co-pay, for anybody that gets an abortion, even if they have private insurance, is not sound financial judgment,” she said in a statement.

Supporters of the bill say it includes an exemption allowing religious employers to request an exemption if the requirements conflict with the organization’s “bona fide religious beliefs and practices.”

At least nine states require abortion coverage in private health insurance plans, including nearby Maryland and New York, according to KFF, formerly known as the Kaiser Family Foundation. Another 17 states cover abortion services for people enrolled in Medicaid, KFF said.

The measure is pending before the state Senate, which must approve it by the June 30 end of the legislative session, sending it to Gov. John Carney’s desk for consideration.

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