Bills would undo law requiring women to buy extra insurance

LANSING — State Representative Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores) and State Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-Meridian Township) have introduced House Bill 4764 and Senate Bill 63, respectively, that would repeal a controversial law that forces women to buy additional health insurance coverage for necessary medical care during a miscarriage or abortion even in cases of rape and when the woman’s health is in jeopardy. The law restricting women’s access to vital health care was passed by Republicans in the Michigan Legislature in December 2013 and took effect in March 2014.  Roberts’ and Hertel’s bills would repeal that law.

“This regressive law hurts women when they are most vulnerable and puts unreasonable barriers between them and the health care they need,” Roberts said. “A woman experiencing a miscarriage should have the peace of mind of knowing that she will receive safe and necessary medical care. This law instead injects politics into an already difficult situation, while potentially forcing a family to incur thousands of dollars of debt for care that had been traditionally covered by insurance. Prohibiting insurance companies and employers from doing what’s best for the women they serve and care for is wrong and must be stopped immediately.”

Republicans passed the law prohibiting insurance companies from offering comprehensive health insurance after Right to Life of Michigan, a special interest group, gathered signatures for a citizen’s initiative. Legislators had a choice to adopt the measure or put it to the vote of the people. Despite the public outcry, Republicans caved to special interest pressure passing it into law, thereby allowing three percent of the state’s population who signed the petition to dictate health care for Michigan women and their families.

“Rather than upholding democratic principles, Republican legislators sold out the people of Michigan to one of their key special interest groups and let 3 percent of the population dictate the health care needs of 100 percent of Michigan women,” Hertel said. “It’s downright insulting to expect Michigan women to anticipate and financially plan for rape, incest or a miscarriage. This law should never have been enacted in the first place, and wouldn’t have if it had gone to the voters of Michigan, but the time to repeal it is now.”

Gov. Rick Snyder and former Gov. John Engler vetoed identical legislation as being too extreme and wrong for Michigan. Gov. Snyder even cited the law’s lack of exception for rape or incest. Additionally, doctors warn the law is poorly worded and therefore may prevent women from getting necessary care for a miscarriage unless they have the foresight to purchase the additional insurance rider.

“The law requires women to buy an extra insurance rider to get comprehensive health coverage, but it doesn’t mandate that insurance companies make these policies available,” Roberts said. “Of the 42 health insurers in Michigan, only 8 offer this rider. In addition, women who buy insurance on their own are not able to get it because it’s only available through employer health plans.”

Hertel and Roberts called the new law cruel and unnecessary, and said they would fight to restore women’s full access to health care.

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