California carriers required to cover abortionsNews added by Benefits Pro on August 26, 2014

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By Kathryn Mayer

California health carriers must cover the cost of all abortions, state officials have ruled.

The new rules are a reversal of previous policy spurred by outrage from faculty and staff after two Catholic universities last fall said they would drop elective abortions from their employee health plans.

California’s Department of Managed Health Care on Friday sent letters to seven insurance companies saying refusing to pay for any abortion, whether medically necessary or not, violates the state constitution and a 1975 state law.

“Abortion is a basic health care service,” California’s Department of Managed Health Care director Michelle Rouillard wrote. “All health plans must treat maternity services and legal abortion neutrally.”

Rouillard noted that the decision becomes effective immediately.

Santa Clara University and Loyola Marymount University told employees last fall that they planned to stop paying for elective abortions, but said faculty and staff members could pay for supplemental coverage that would be provided through a third party.

That caused ire with staff and faculty. According to the Associated Press, “university employees who objected to the decision and abortion-rights groups lobbied the women’s caucus of the California Legislature, which in turn asked Gov. Jerry Brown to clarify and reverse the health care department’s determination.”

The San Jose Mercury News reported that Rouillard, in her letter, “had ‘erroneously approved or did not object’ to discriminatory language that limited or excluded abortion coverage in some health insurance policies that cover ‘a very small fraction'’ of health plan enrollees dating back to 2008.

The news out of California is the latest in a string of women’s health issues.

Last week, the Obama administration altered rules for contraceptive coverage, saying women who work for religious nonprofits will have access to birth control at no cost under a procedure the Obama administration said would also relieve their employers of any moral objections to the coverage.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled that nonprofits closely held companies are protected from supplying birth control if they object on religious grounds.

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