A controversial new Michigan law that prohibits private insurance from covering abortion care as a standard feature, including in cases of rape or incest, went into effect on Thursday. While the law allows insurance companies to offer abortion coverage as an optional rider, it turns out that no companies will offer those riders on the individual market.
Seven insurance companies will offer the riders through small- and large-group employer plans, so a woman could get abortion coverage if her employer, or that of a family member, happens to choose a plan that offers the riders. But employers must also inform all employees that they are offering such coverage, which could lead to awkwardly personal conversations about whether an employee wants to buy it. And for women whose employers don’t offer the coverage, or women buying insurance on the individual market, even that option isn’t available.
Some opponents have called these riders “rape insurance,” because even women who become pregnant from rape would need to have purchased the rider in advance of her rape to get coverage for an abortion. But women whose pregnancies threaten their health, if not necessarily their immediate life, would also be out of luck, state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) pointed out.
“A woman in need of a medically necessary D&C [dilation and curettage] procedure will not even have insurance as an option, meaning she would be required to pay for the procedure entirely on her own with a cost often totaling in the tens of thousands of dollars,” Whitmer told the Detroit Free Press.
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Whitmer made an impassioned plea against the bill on the senate floor late last year by recalling her own story of being raped, a plea that her colleagues in the heavily anti-choice legislature ignored. The law passed on a rare procedural maneuver that let the legislature push through, with no approval from the governor, a ballot initiative sponsored by Michigan Right to Life that had signatures from 3 percent of the state’s population.
Most customers won’t see an immediate effect, an insurance spokesman told MLive, because if a customer has coverage already, it won’t be stripped out until the policy renews, which is usually in September or October. But anyone trying to buy a new individual policy, while they may have had trouble getting one with abortion coverage before the ban, certainly won’t be able to do so now.