High-risk health insurance pool will not cover elective abortions

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Elective abortions will not be covered by the temporary high-risk health insurance pool program, according to an interim final rule released by the Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday.

The new rule notes that the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan "is Federally-created, funded, and administered [whether directly or through contract]; it is a temporary Federal insurance program in which the risk is borne by the Federal government up to a fixed appropriation. As such, the services covered by the PCIP program shall not include abortion services except in the case of rape or incest, or where the life of the woman would be endangered. The reduced-rate high-risk insurance pools that will insure individuals with pre-existing conditions before all insurance companies must accept them in 2014."

The state-based insurance pools provision in the new health law allocates $5 billion to create plans to cover people who have been uninsured for at least six months and have a pre-existing health condition.

In the White House blog, Nancy-Ann DeParle, the director of the White House Office of Health Reform, wrote yesterday: "Much has been made of this policy by both sides of the debate. But, in reality, no new ground has been broken." The program's restriction on abortion coverage is not a precedent for other programs or policies given the unique, temporary nature of the program and the population it serves. It does not restrict private insurance choices.

Studies have estimated that the high-risk program could help from 200,000 to 400,000 uninsured people with pre-existing conditions. The new coverage should cut medical debt, improve health and worker productivity and reduce the amount of uncompensated care provided to the uninsured, potentially by billions of dollars.

To learn more:
- see the Kaiser Health News story
- read Nancy-Ann DeParle's White House blog
- see The Hill's story
- check out the Catholic News Agency article
- see the interim final rule in the Federal Register

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