Tennessee Rushes To Eliminate Abortion Coverage From New Health Insurance Exchanges

The federal health care law prohibits public dollars from being used to finance abortions and requires insurers that choose to offer abortion coverage to collect a separate check from policy holders, but the law also gives states the option of reasserts states’ right to ban private insurers from providing abortion coverage to women within the exchange.

Tennessee is at least the second state to take advantage of this provision, advancing legislation that would eliminate abortion coverage from an exchange that does not even go into effect until 2014. The Tennessee House Commerce Committee passed the bill (HB 2681) on a voice vote last week. From the text:

No health care plan required to be established in this state through an exchange pursuant to federal health care reform legislation enacted by the 111th Congress shall offer coverage for abortion services. For purposes of this section, “abortion” has the same meaning as defined in § 39-15-201.

Tennessee already has restrictive abortion laws. Public funding is available for abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest and minors must obtain parental consent before receiving an abortion. Last week, the Tennessee legislature also approved two separate measures requiring “abortion clinics to post signs alerting women of a Tennessee law that prohibits coercing a woman into having an abortion.”

A Missouri Senate committee also approved a bill that would deny insurers the right to offer abortion coverage in any government exchange last month.


Nick Baumann points out that I overstated the abortion section of the new health care law by suggesting that the states’ ability to ban abortion coverage was something new. It’s not. As he explains:

Since 1945, the states have had the right to pass laws regulating insurance, including banning abortion. Some of them even did it: according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, Idaho, Kentucky, Missouri, North Dakota, and Oklahoma have bills on the books limiting health insurance coverage of abortion. Oklahoma lets insurers cover abortions in cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is endangered; the other four states only allow insurers to cover abortions if the life of the mother is endangered.

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