Pennsylvania has moved one step closer to excluding abortion coverage from plans offered by private insurers through insurance exchanges slated to be implemented under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The Pennsylvania Senate reported to the state House of Eepresentatives on Thursday that the Aenate had passed House bill 818 without amendment.
The proposed law had significant support from local legislators, who added their names as sponsors.
Under the bill, dubbed the "abortion opt-out bill", "No qualified plan offered in this commonwealth through the health insurance exchange shall include coverage for the performance of any abortion."
The exchanges are set to be implemented in 2014 as part of the ACA, also known as Obamacare. The ACA includes a provision granting states the authority to exclude plans including abortion coverage from the exchanges.
The bill has generated controversy over whether the state would be over-stepping by intruding on private business transactions in an effort to eliminate abortion coverage from private health care plans.
Plans in the exchange are offered by private insurance companies rather than public programs such as Medicaid. The exchanges are designed to allow individual consumers who do not qualify for Medicaid to shop for private insurance.
As most insurance plans include abortion coverage, there is currently no supplemental insurance plan to cover abortion for those purchasing plans through the exchange.
State Sen. Joe Scarnati, who co-sponsored a similar bill in the Pennsylvania Senate, said in a press release, "House bill 818 takes an important step to guarantee that taxpayer-supported plans in Pennsylvania's health insurance exchanges, when created, are in line with our state's long standing policy to prohibit abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or to avert the death of the mother."
While some low-income consumers who do not qualify for Medicaid would be eligible for a subsidy to help pay for insurance coverage, plans in the exchange will be offered to individuals using their own money to purchase insurance. The plans themselves are not subsidized with tax dollars.
Both federal and state law prohibit the use of public fund to pay for abortions in most cases.
Pennsylvania law does not prohibit abortions outright or the use of private funds to pay for the procedures. According to the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe -v- Wade decision, such a law would be unconstitutional.
"Current Pennsylvania law ensures taxpayer dollars are not spent on elective abortions and this important principle should remain in place," Scarnati continued. "Most Pennsylvanians do not want their tax dollars to pay for elective abortions. I'm proud to support HB 818 which will serve to further protect the unborn."
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed the measure on April 23.
The following day, bill co-sponsor Kathy Rapp said of the bill, "This legislation is every bit as essential for protecting innocent life as the landmark Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act that was enacted 25 years ago and Act 122 of 2011 that was signed into law to hold abortion clinics to the same high-standards as other health care facilities. Whether one is adamantly pro-life, like me, or pro-choice or indifferent, the vast majority of Pennsylvania taxpayers do not support any of their hard-earned dollars being used to fund the murder of helpless babies."
The measure passed the senate in a 31-19 vote on Wednesday, June 5.
It will now go before Gov. Tom Corbett for approval and signing.