Vote set on abortion rule for Pa. health exchange

    Two weeks ago, Pennsylvania decided to set up a state-run health exchange. Now some lawmakers are ready to set rules for the marketplace that is supposed to make it cheaper to buy health insurance.

    The proposal from Rep. Donna Oberlander, a Republican from Clarion County, would restrict abortion coverage for plans sold through Pennsylvania’s health exchange, which is set to go live in 2014.

    Similar to the rules for Medicaid, the bill prohibits payment except in cases of incest, rape or to avoid a mother’s death. An abortion to protect a woman’s health would not be covered, according to Sari Stevens, executive director of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates.

    “That’s conditions like a diabetic with skyrocketing blood pressure, a woman with cancer, a severe infection in the uterus. Those are not death, those are health, and that’s not an exception that’s included in this bill,” Stevens said.

    Oberlander did not respond to requests for comment, but a spokesman for the Republican House majority says lawmakers want to make sure public dollars don’t pay for “elective” abortions.

    Though administered by the state, Stevens says many women will shop the marketplace and buy a plan with their own money.

    The legislation says women could buy a separate stand-alone insurance plan for abortion, outside of the exchange, but Rep. Pamela DeLissio, a Democrat of Philadelphia County, says it’s not clear if that’s a real option.

    DeLissio says the bill is moving too fast.

    “There’s no opportunity to talk to stakeholders including insurance companies to find out: Would there be such an animal as a rider for this that could be offered at a competitive price outside the exchange? We don’t know any of this.” DeLissio said.

    The proposal has strong support from the Republican majority, and opponents seem resigned that the bill will prevail. They’re now hoping for modifications.

    House Health Committee Chairman Matt Baker, a Tioga County Republican, said the bill is set for a final vote Monday.

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