September 19, 2019
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Providence Health Plan (Providence) of Portland, OR, - a new health insurer - has been approved to sell three health plans in the 2020 individual market. It will offer plans in six counties: Clark, Spokane, Thurston, Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla.
Providence is the first health insurer to invoke its religious conviction to limit coverage of abortion services to its enrollees. 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.
“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.”
The Office of the Insurance Commissioner is requiring Providence to inform enrollees who need abortion services not covered by their plan that they can access the services through the Washington Department of Health (DOH) Family Planning Program by calling 1-800-525-0127. They will be connected with a provider in their area.
Kreidler added, “Providence exercised its conscience - as it’s allowed to do under state law (www.leg.wa.gov) – 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.”
“I remain fully committed to ensuring that everyone in Washington has access to the full range of reproductive health care options,” said Gov. Inslee.
The legislature passed the Reproductive Parity Act in 2018, requiring 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.