Auditors: Insurance restriction unlikely to curb abortion in Virginia

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Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

Virginia state auditors in a new report warned Gov. Bob McDonnell and state lawmakers that the restrictions they want to place on insurance coverage for abortions are not consistent with "the role of health insurance" and would likely do little to curb abortions.

The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, the nonpartisan oversight arm of the General Assembly, reached its conclusion while evaluating a failed bill from 2012 that would require all health insurance companies that cover abortion to provide an identical plan without the abortion coverage. McDonnell is reviving the issue with an amendment that would bar companies participating in the state's federally run insurance exchange from covering abortions. The General Assembly will take up the proposal Wednesday.

The JLARC report noted that few women request insurance plans without abortion coverage and concluded that forcing providers to drop the coverage would "remove coverage for a safe, effective and legal medical treatment."

The auditors cautioned that not covering abortions could lead to more "self-inflicted abortions or abortions performed below the standard of care."

McDonnell said his amendment is consistent with a state law that would have banned abortion coverage in a state-run health insurance exchange, but that was before his administration decided to accept an insurance exchange created by the federal government under President Obama's health care reforms.

"Gov. McDonnell has always maintained a pro-life stance," said spokesman Jeff Caldwell.

The report also concluded that the restrictions McDonnell wants to place on insurance coverage are not likely to affect many women or curb abortions in the state.

Auditors found only one in four women who get an abortion actually use their insurance to pay for it. The vast majority pay out of pocket.

First-trimester abortions typically cost $395 to $450, and second-semester abortions cost about $1,800. About 25,000 pregnancies were intentionally terminated in 2010, the report said.

NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Deputy Director Caroline O'Shea said many women don't use their health insurance for an abortion because of privacy concerns. Others simply don't have insurance, she said.

"As we extend people's access," O'Shea said, "we want to make sure people are getting coverage that covers them in all circumstances."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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