Ohio House Committee Holds Hearing on Bill Banning Most Insurance Coverage for Abortion

The proposed bill would expand a law prohibiting public sector employee insurance plans from covering abortions to include all insurance policies. But it could also prohibit coverage of birth control, opponents say.

May 7, 2019 at 11:40 am
click to enlarge State Rep. John Becker - Ohio House of Representatives
Ohio House of Representatives
State Rep. John Becker

A bill that would prohibit most private insurance policies from covering abortion in Ohio had its first hearing in the Ohio House of Representatives Insurance Committee this morning. 

House Bill 182, co-sponsored by Clermont County State Rep. John Becker and State Rep. Tom Brinkman of Cincinnati, both Republicans, would expand prohibitions already in place for insurance policies provided to public sector employees.

Brinkman is the chair of the Insurance Committee. Eighteen other Republicans have also signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.

Other lawmakers on the committee had several questions about the legislation — including whether it would impact contraception coverage and whether specific surgical procedures mentioned in relation to the bill actually exist.

Those who have healthcare due to their status as public employees, those enrolled in Medicaid and those who get their plans from the Affordable Care Act's marketplace aren't covered for abortions under current state law. Many women who have private insurance via their employers are covered for abortions, however.

"Currently, Ohioans who participate in health plans have no assurance in Ohio law that their insurance premiums are financially separate from insurance coverage of abortion services," Becker said in testimony about the bill April 30. "This bill will save lives by prohibiting insurance companies from covering abortion services. This bill does not apply to private-sector self-insured companies, nor does it prohibit any entity from directly paying for their employees’ abortion services."

Today's hearing was the first on the bill. 

"On a proposed bill to ban insurance companies from covering abortions (outside of the obvious issue with this bill) the sponsor is unsure how it will impact coverage for contraception," Democratic State Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney tweeted after the hearing. "If the actual goal is to prevent unplanned pregnancy this would not be an issue."

The bill prohibits coverage of "drugs or devices used to prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum" — a measure that critics say would prevent insurers from covering common birth control measures like IUDs, the pill and others.

Becker has said that the bill contains exceptions for certain life-threatening conditions, but critics also took issue with his assertions.

"An example of self-defense, related to this bill, would be the treatment of an ectopic pregnancy," he said in written testimony last month. "This is also known as a tubal pregnancy. If not treated, the mother and her child will both die. This is an example of a life of the mother exception."

Becker argues that an ectopic pregnancy — in which a fertilized egg exists inside a woman's fallopian tube or other locations outside the uterus  — could be addressed by removing the embryo from the fallopian tube and reinserting it into the womb. That's not an actual medical procedure, critics and medical experts say.

Becker admits the technology that would allow that procedure is "in its infancy," he told media.

But others say even that is false. 

“A pregnancy in the tube cannot be saved,” Dr. Stuart Jones of Ohio Health told WCMH TV Columbus. "No technology exists at this time that allows us to do that.” 

Becker introduced similar legislation in 2014, but it did not garner enough support to become law. However, he cited Ohio's recently-approved "heartbeat law" as a reason to push forward with the insurance legislation. That ban, one of the most restrictive in the country, outlaws abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detectable, or as little as six weeks after conception. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed the bill into law last month.