Minnesota's new health insurance exchange may not cover abortions.
House members voted 71-58 Monday afternoon to ban health insurance companies from offering abortion coverage in the plans that will be sold on the state's new online health insurance marketplace. The bill's sponsor, Democratic Rep. Patti Fritz of Faribault, offered an amendment to the health exchange bill "to preserve the dignity and sanctity and respect of human life."
Seventeen other states have banned abortion coverage on their insurance exchanges. It remains to be seen if the Fritz amendment survives the upcoming conference committee when the House and Senate versions of the health exchange bill are reconciled.
Critics said Fritz's bill is unnecessary, since federal law already prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars for abortions. All the amendment will do is ensure that women who use the exchange -- mostly people with lower incomes or those whose employers do not offer health plans -- will be unable to use their own money to make a private health care decision.
"When you vote for this amendment, you're saying that a woman cannot use her own funds to buy a product to provide health coverage that she chooses," said Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester. "This is politicians deciding what kind of healthcare a woman can have covered when she buys her insurance product. I don't think Minnesotans want politicians deciding what women should be able to have for healthcare."
The abortion opposition group Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life welcomed the vote.
“The health care exchange bill in the House now reflects the will of the Minnesota House of Representatives and the will of the people of Minnesota, the majority of whom oppose abortion and abortion coverage,” group spokeswoman Andrea Rau said in a statement.
An estimated 1.3 million Minnesotans -- or one out of every five people in the state -- are expected to buy their insurance through the exchange, once it is up and running next January.