New Maine law prevents insurers from requiring patients meet deductibles for abortion care

Insurers in Maine will no longer be permitted to require patients meet a deductible or pay other cost-sharing measures before receiving access to an abortion, according to a new law that took effect at the beginning of the year.

Advocates believe this law will make it easier for patients to pay for an abortion, so there is less reason to delay due to financial limitations. Patients will no longer be charged for a copayment or coinsurance when seeking abortion care.

“Too often Mainers delay or go without the healthcare that they need – including abortion – because our broken health care system pushes unaffordable deductibles and copays onto patients,” said Destie Hohman Sprague, executive director of the Maine Women’s Lobby, in an email to Fierce Healthcare. “This law not only helps break down some of the cost barriers to abortion, but recognizes that the health care system itself is part of the problem standing in the way of women’s health.”

The average deductible for an employer-sponsored health plan is $2,600 and an abortion costs up to $1,000, Lisa Margulies, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, told Bangor Daily News.

An Act to Remove Barriers to Abortion Coverage in Private Insurance in Maine was passed in June, one year following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade, which ended the federal constitutional right to an abortion. The Maine legislature also passed bills in 2023 that removes criminal penalties attached to abortion care, protects the right to medically necessary abortions later in pregnancy, updates data collection policies to prevent privacy, helps ensure abortions can take place even if a provider is acquired by a religious-affiliated health care group, increases access to birth control and reinforces protections for gender affirming care.

The set of bills, pushed by Democratic legislators, was supported by a coalition of interests including the Maine Medical Association, Maine Council of Churches, ACLU of Maine and others. In April, Republicans said the proposals went too far, reported Maine Public Broadcasting.

“The reality is that few people have the savings to afford a medical emergency, and cost-sharing most severely affects those with the fewest financial resources,”said Rep. Matt Moonen (D-ME) in a statement in July. “For those in need of access to abortion, those costs can mean a month’s rent or a car payment. Scrambling to come up with the extra money for these out-of-pocket costs can cause delays in care, pushing a woman later into pregnancy and potentially further into economic distress.”

Last week, ACLU Policy Director Meagan Sway in a statement called the new insurer requirement “crucial” for people with low incomes, noting that it is disproportionately harder for people of color and people in rural areas to surpass obstacles to get an abortion.

Elsewhere, Montana enacted a new law that requires insurers to cover birth control for 12 months, reports NBC News. Among a series of new bills in California, the state now mandates payers to provide malpractice insurance for abortions and contraceptive care that is legal in California, a bill that was signed in September.

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