By Marc Levy
The Associated Press
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania is joining about 20 other states in limiting coverage of abortions under health care insurance policies offered in a federally-run insurance marketplace starting next year under a sweeping federal law.
Gov. Tom Corbett’s office said he signed the bill today, without offering any comment. In the past, Corbett’s office has said that it would not place any greater restrictions on access to abortion than already exist.
Critics of the bill, primarily Democrats, say it expands restrictions on abortion rights and discriminates against poor women. Support in the Republican-controlled Legislature was bipartisan and sponsors said it is consistent with Pennsylvania’s longstanding ban on prohibiting taxpayers from supporting elective abortions because the insurance marketplace will be run with taxpayer money.
They also point out that the 2010 federal health care law that created the insurance marketplaces allows the prohibition on abortion coverage in health insurance policies offered through them.
It would still allow policies sold through the federally run marketplace to cover abortions in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger. But anyone wanting coverage for most abortions would need to purchase that coverage separately outside of the marketplace.
Currently, most privately sold health insurance policies cover abortions.
A number of other states, including Florida and Ohio, restrict abortion coverage in insurance plans that will be offered through the marketplaces, according to the New York-based Guttmacher Institute, which tracks restrictions on abortion rights.
The new insurance marketplaces will allow households and small businesses to buy a private health plan, and many will get help from the government to pay their premiums. Under the law, states that can’t or won’t set up marketplaces — including Pennsylvania — will have theirs run by Washington.
Abortion-rights proponents in the Legislature had tried, without success, to expand the bill’s exceptions to include instances when the health of the mother is at risk and to allow policies in the marketplace to include abortion coverage as long as a person used their own money to buy them.