Supreme Court’s decision on Roe impacts health insurers

A health policy and health care economist weigh in
Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 6:47 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New legal challenges to the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe v. Wade aside, insurance companies providing health coverage face a quagmire.

Many insurers cover abortions but not all states are allowing abortions to continue following the high court’s ruling.

Mark Diana, Ph.D., is a professor in Tulane University’s Department of Health Policy and Management.

“States regulate insurance and they can tell insurance companies, private insurance companies that they cannot cover abortion services,” said Diana.

Undoubtedly some women in states where abortion is now banned will travel to others states where abortion services continue to be offered.

UNO healthcare economist Walter Lane, Ph.D. also gave his perspective.

“If they’re in a state whether it’s the insurance company or the employer where abortions are banned now the question is can, do they cover travel out of state and if so how do they do it? It becomes very complicated,” said Lane.

Jeff Drozda, CEO of the Louisiana Association of Health Plans issued the following statement:

“The Louisiana Association of Health Plans remains passionately committed to providing high-quality, affordable health care coverage to citizens across our state. We are currently seeking to better understand how the ruling will affect current and future policies as well as maintaining full compliance with federal and state regulations.”

Diana thinks insurers are not going to push the envelope in states where abortion is prohibited.

“I think insurance companies are going to avoid any risk here, they’re not going to take the chance, of, of providing coverages for services that, in any way expose them,” he said.

Government-funded Medicaid insurance pays for some abortions.

“Medicaid, I believe the law is they can only cover abortion in the case of rape and incest, but the question is, if it’s not legal if the procedure is not legal in the state can Medicaid in the state of Louisiana which is part federal money and part state money cover people to go out of state?” said Lane.

Related to that, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Department of Health says no such decision is being discussed at this time.

Still, the post-Roe debate rages on.

Both Lane and Diana were asked if the federal Affordable Care Act through which Americans can purchase health insurance will be impacted by the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“Actually, I don’t think it does because there’s two parts to the Affordable Care Act, one is the expansion of Medicaid and we’ve already discussed that; the other one is the individual policies and the individual policies have some overall rules governing them by the federal government but they are, each individual policy is licensed by the state, so I think that the policies within the state of Louisiana covering Obamacare patients is going to be the same as it would be for covering any other insurance question,” said Lane.

Diana said, “So, the Affordable Care Act is still, these are the same private insurance companies that provide coverage under, so employer-based plans and they’re still regulated by the state, so the state can tell them that they can’t cover abortion services as well.”

On Monday, three federal agencies sent a letter to insurance companies reminding them of their obligations under the ACA to provide coverage for birth control services at no cost.