Thursday, May 8, 2014

Detroit News' Laura Berman doesn’t understand health insurance law

Detroit News columnist Laura Berman doesn’t like Michigan’s Abortion Insurance Opt-Out law which opts the state out of abortion insurance coverage except by optional rider. 

Her newest column’s title declares “Michigan abortion insurance riders just a mirage” and claims that federal law outlaws insurance companies from offering riders. 
Since Berman doesn’t cite the part of the law she’s referring to, it’s difficult to understand the source of her claim below.

Not so. In fact, the state “opt-out” rider law clashes with provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which outlaws both separate riders and any government subsidy of abortion. Under federal law, insurers cannot offer a rider to a standard, inclusive policy. And the new state law bars insurers from including elective abortion coverage in any policy, on or off the exchange.

The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) doesn’t outlaw separate riders.  Starting in 2014, it outlaws exclusionary riders in all health insurance plans.  This appears to be what Berman is talking about.  Exclusionary riders are a form of rider which insurers used to exclude covering a certain condition or body part.  Other riders, which add coverage to plans, are not outlawed.

The Affordable Care Act explicitly allows states to opt-out of abortion coverage.  This is why more than 20 states have opted out of abortion insurance coverage, including many which have included optional rider language.

That Berman doesn’t understand this shows the shoddiness of her work.  In her never ending attempts to attack this prolife law, Berman assumes legislators lied without doing the research necessary to know what she’s writing about.  Berman is entitled to her own opinion on whether insurance should cover abortion but she’s not entitled to make up stuff. 

Berman goes on to disprove her assertion and her column's title later in the column when she notes that a number of insurance companies are offering abortion riders in their group plans at a very small cost. Obviously, abortion insurance isn't a mirage.

Group insurance isn’t affected by the federal health care reform, so some of the state’s largest insurers — including Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan, Health Alliance Plan and United Health Care — are offering riders to large group customers......

So far, the group abortion riders are affordable. For example, Blue Cross charges its corporate customers a penny to 32 cents per member for the rider.

Group insurance isn’t affected by the federal health care reform?  What an absurd assertion.  Does Berman not understand the federal health care law at all?  Anyone who knows anything about Obamacare knows that it does affect group insurance.   

Berman is upset that insurance companies are, at this point, apparently not offering abortion insurance riders on individual plans.  As shown above, this is not because insurance companies can't, it's because they've decided not to at the moment, most likely because the demand for them is so low.  Only 3% of Michigan's abortions were paid for by insurance in 2012.  If Berman is upset insurance companies in Michigan aren't offering a product she believes should be available, then she should take it up with them.