Abortion bill has little-noticed provision

Jul. 29, 2013 @ 09:41 PM

One less-publicized provision of the abortion bill passed last week by the N.C. General Assembly and signed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory Monday could impact some health coverage plans of local government employees across the area and state.

Senate Bill 353 will prohibit municipal and county employees from having health coverage through an insurance plan that provides abortion services. The bill states that “no qualified health plan offered through an exchange ... operating within this state shall include coverage for abortion services.”

The limit on health coverage of municipal and county employees will take effect on or after Oct. 1. The provision would go into effect when a local government signs a new contract with an insurance company, according to the office of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham.

High Point City Manager Strib Boynton said Monday that city officials will study the possible effects of the legislation on the health coverage of city employees.

“We’ll certainly comply with the law,” Boynton told The High Point Enterprise.

The president of Greensboro-based N.C. Right to Life said her organization supports the provision to prohibit abortion coverage for municipal and county employees. Governmental bodies, as public entities, shouldn’t sanction the practice of abortion, said N.C. Right to Life President Barbara Holt.

But a representative with Planned Parenthood, which supports the right for a woman to have an abortion, said Senate Bill 353 has implications for local government employees beyond the issue of abortion.

If municipal or county employees have a health plan — but would never consider using the abortion services part of it — they still face losing their current coverage if it sanctions abortion procedures, said Paige Johnson, vice president of external affairs with Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina.

“Employers choose health plans as packages. The whole plan has to change,” Johnson said. “Any package that’s comprehensive, but has abortion in it, is off the table.”

The N.C. League of Municipalities, which represents more than 540 cities and towns, doesn’t have an estimate on how many local employees would be affected by the legislation, said Paul Meyer, director of government affairs. One reason is that municipalities make their own decisions about health care coverage plans for their employees.

The league doesn’t have a position on the section of the bill about abortion coverage and municipal health plans, Meyer said.

The N.C. Association of County Commissioners also doesn’t have a position on the bill, said Chris Baucom, public relations specialist. The association doesn’t track the number of counties that offer abortion coverage as part of their health plans.

During his campaign for governor last year, McCrory said that he wouldn’t sign a bill that furthered restrictions on abortion. Now McCrory is saying that Senate Bill 353 doesn’t contain provisions that counter his campaign pledge from last fall. Last week at a press conference, McCrory said he doesn’t believe government funding should be used to subsidize abortion procedures.

An activist with a liberal group said the section of the bill on municipal and county employees is inherently more restrictive on abortion.

“This bill restricts health insurance, and that restricts access,” said Gerrick Brenner, execuive director with Progress N.C.

pjohnson@hpe.com | 888-3528

 

Legislation

Senate Bill 353, which the Republican-controlled N.C. General Assembly passed last week, will place new rules on abortion services in North Carolina. Section 2 of the bill will prohibit municipal and county governments in North Carolina from offering health coverage plans that include abortion services. The legislation states that health care coverage limits “shall not apply to an abortion performed when the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest or the life of the mother is endangered ...”

Now that the bill has been signed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, it would “apply to insurance contracts or policies issued, renewed or amended on or after Oct. 1, 2013,” according to the legislation.