Health insurers not following Oregon law requiring free reproductive health care, state audit says – Oregon Capital Chronicle

Health insurers not following Oregon law requiring free reproductive health care, state audit says – Oregon Capital Chronicle

June 23, 2022 0 By administrator

Oregon’s governor, lawmakers and state agency officials have often touted the state’s reproductive rights law as one of the most comprehensive and equitable in the country.

But there’s a problem: Many insurers providing coverage to more than 1 million Oregonians are not following the regulations.

That is one of the findings of an audit ordered by the state Department of Consumer and Business Services, which regulates the insurance industry. Released Tuesday, the report said investigators found widespread evidence of violations of the Reproductive Health Equity Act, passed by the Legislature in 2017 and effective in 2019. The law requires insurers to provide free coverage for reproductive health care, including screenings, abortions and contraceptives – even to undocumented immigrants.

The violations mean that Oregonians have been paying, at least in part, for reproductive services that are supposed to be free. The report did not say how many Oregonians were affected.

The act applies to commercial insurers, including individual and large and small group plans. The only exceptions to the law are religious-based insurers, such as Providence Health Plan, which are exempted from the law.

The audit examined claims from Jan. 1, 2019, through Dec. 31, 2020. The department initiated the audit when its work on a legislative report in June 2020 found that the requirements were not being fully followed.

The agency found “variations in coverage and indications of potential widespread noncompliance with the law,” specifically the failure to fully pay for certain services, the report said.

Reproductive rights supporters were angered but not shocked by the report.

“It’s incredibly disappointing and incredibly unsurprising,” state Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Portland and a physician at Oregon Health & Science University, told the Capital Chronicle. While acknowledging that “it is tough to revamp when new requirements go into place,” she said insurers have had almost three years to adapt to the law. 

“What baffles me is this: All those things are things that ultimately save insurance companies money,” Steiner Hayward said. “It is cheaper to provide contraception than to care for someone when she’s pregnant. It’s also smarter because people who get pregnant when they’re planning to are more likely to have healthy babies.”

Under the law, insurers must cover abortions, anemia screenings, contraception, pregnancy screening, sterilization and screening for sexually transmitted diseases for free. The law also requires coverage for undocumented immigrants. 

Abortion bans could be coming

The report comes as reproductive rights activists and anti-abortion groups – along with the public – await a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that could overturn Roe v. Wade, which was decided in 1973, and a subsequent decision – Planned Parenthood v. Casey – which upheld Roe in 1992.


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