Healthcare

Thurston County is among the locations in Washington where a new health insurer has been approved to sell three health plans on the 2020 individual market.

Providence Health Plan will be offered in Thurston, Clark, Spokane, Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla counties.

It’s the first health insurer in Washington to invoke its religious conviction to limit coverage of abortion services for enrollees. According to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, abortion will be covered by a Providence plan only if there is a severe threat to the mother or if the fetus cannot be sustained.

The state is requiring Providence to inform its enrollees that abortion services not covered by its plan can access the services through the Washington Department of Health Family Planning Program.

“I’m pleased some consumers will have an additional choice for their health insurance,” Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said in a press release. “But before we could approve these plans, we had to know how women selecting this insurer would access the critical reproductive services they might need and that Providence objected offering.”

“I’m pleased some consumers will have an additional choice for their health insurance,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “But before we could approve these plans, we had to know how women selecting this insurer would access the critical reproductive services they might need and that Providence objected offering … Providence exercised its conscience — as it’s allowed to do under state law — but it must provide timely information on how women can access the abortion services they need. I’m grateful to Gov. Jay Inslee and the Department of Health for their efforts to help make sure no women are denied timely access to these critical services.”

The Legislature passed the Reproductive Parity Act in 2018. It requires state-regulated insurance plans to cover termination of pregnancy. However, Washington state law also allows providers, insurers and facilities to refuse to participate in or pay for services for reason of conscience or religion. Under state law, if a religious insurer invokes the conscience clause, it must provide enrollees with specific timely written notice of what services they refuse to cover and how the enrollee can access these services.

“I remain fully committed to ensuring that everyone in Washington has access to the full range of reproductive health care options,” Inslee said in the press release.

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