Special session preview: Pro-Life Health Insurance Reform

This is the first in a series of articles previewing the issues and debates expected for the Special Session of the 85th Texas Legislature that begins on July 18, 2017.

While Congress considers  legislation to repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Texas Legislature looks to protect Life within the ACA framework, private health insurance markets, and public health insurance exchanges in the upcoming special session.  Governor Abbott has placed a broad Pro-Life Health Insurance Reform on the agenda of the Special Session of the 85th Texas Legislature on July 18 .

Under the ACA, each state can determine how elective abortion is covered and can prohibit plans on the federal health insurance marketplace from covering elective abortion.  States have the authority to make elective abortion coverage available as a supplemental option for purchase.  During the regular session, Pro-Life Health Insurance Reform was filed as Senate Bill 20 by Senator Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) and House Bill 1113 by Representative John Smithee (R-Amarillo).  Together, these bills would have removed elective abortion coverage not only from standard ACA-subsidized plans, but also would have protected Texans from paying for others’ elective abortions in private insurance and state exchanges.  Therefore, even if Republicans in repeal the federal ACA,  hidden and unwanted abortion coverage in the Texas insurance market will remain, without the Pro-Life Health Insurance Reform bill.  That is why Texas’ Pro-Life Health Insurance Reform also applies to private and state employee insurance plans.  However, abortions deemed a medical emergency under current law would be exempt from the removal of elective abortion coverage.  Unfortunately, although the Senate passed Pro-Life Health Insurance Reform, House leadership killed the measure twice in the regular session (once as SB 20 and once as an amendment on a related bill). Throughout the special session, Chairman Smithee will lead this Pro-Life effort in the House and Pro-Life Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) will carry the bill in the Senate.

Despite the way the media has framed this issue, Pro-Life Health Insurance Reform is not a ban on elective abortion coverage.  Insurers can still provide separate plans to individuals who want elective abortion coverage, similar to the process of purchasing supplemental medical services, like dental and vision. This state measure is fully in line with the ACA, which gives states the flexibility to structure their own insurance plans within the federally-mandated insurance structure.  

Twenty-five other states have already chosen to remove abortion coverage from their ACA-subsidized health insurance exchanges.  Similarly, 21 states have separated abortion coverage under state employee health insurance plans, while 10 states have removed automatic abortion coverage from private health insurance plans.

The majority of Texans are Pro-Life.  Texans do not want or need insurance coverage for elective abortions, neither do they want to subsidize others’ life-ending procedures.  For our state, an opt-in system is more appropriate.  For those who want elective abortions, this bill will provide the option to purchase coverage through supplemental plans.  However, Pro-Life Health Insurance Reform will ensure Texans no longer subsidize abortions against their will through tax or insurance dollars – regardless of a citizen’s insurance market.  

If passed in the special session, this long-overdue measure will protect the consciences of Pro-Life Texans and cut off another loophole for taxpayer funded abortions.  Passing Pro-Life Health Insurance Reform this summer will be a victory for Life in Texas.