Delaware Senate gives final approval to bill mandating insurance coverage for abortions

DOVER, Del. (AP) —

Democratic lawmakers in Delaware gave final approval Tuesday to a bill requiring most private health insurance plans and Delaware’s Medicaid program to cover abortions.

The bill cleared the Democrat-led Senate on a party-line vote and now goes to Democratic Gov. John Carney.

In addition to mandating coverage for abortions, the legislation prohibits most insurance plans, including the one covering state government employees, from charging copays, applying deductibles, or imposing any other cost-sharing requirements for abortion services.

The bill includes an exemption allowing churches and other religious employers to seek waivers from the coverage requirement. Coverage would be capped at $750 per person per year, which supporters say would cover the cost of most abortions in Delaware.

According to legislative analysts using data from the Delaware Division of Medicaid and Medical Assistance and a survey of abortion providers, non-surgical abortions account for about 85% of all abortions, at an average cost of about $600.

Analysts estimate that the legislation will cost Delaware taxpayers about $500,000 annually for abortions covered by Medicaid and the state employee health insurance plan.

“Abortion is healthcare, and it is recognized as such here in Delaware,” said chief bill sponsor and House Majority Leader Melissa Minor-Brown. “Yet the financial constraints and stigma associated with abortion services act as enormous barriers to actually accessing them.”

Currently, 10 states require private health insurers to cover abortions and 17 states cover abortions for Medicaid enrollees.

The insurance mandate is part of an ongoing effort by Democrats who control Delaware’s legislature to protect and expand access to abortions.

In recent years, lawmakers have codified abortion access and allowed physician assistants and nurse practitioners to provide abortions. They also have allowed physician assistants and advanced practiced registered nurses to prescribe abortion pills, and provided legal protections to abortion providers and out-of-state residents who travel to Delaware to get abortions.

Meanwhile, a Senate bill pending action in the House requires colleges and universities in Delaware with student health centers to offer abortion pills and emergency contraception. Another Senate bill awaiting House action requires crisis pregnancy centers to provide public notice if they are not licensed as medical facilities and do not employ a licensed medical provider.

Randall Chase, The Associated Press