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Originally published Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 8:52 PM

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Flap arises over whether plans do or don’t cover abortion

Confusion about whether abortion would be covered by two insurers in the Washington exchange marketplace set off a scramble this week to set the record straight.

Seattle Times health reporter

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Do they or don’t they cover abortion?

That question caused a scramble Thursday after two insurers were erroneously reported to lack coverage for abortion in plans offered through Washington’s exchange marketplace, Washington Healthplanfinder.

The state’s Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC), responding to an inquiry from the state Legislature’s Republican caucus, said it had determined that Molina Healthcare of Washington and Coordinated Care did not cover voluntary pregnancy termination.

Human Life of Washington sent out an email to that effect; CEO Dan Kennedy said the organization had received inquiries from people who didn’t want to buy a plan that covered abortion.

In answer to inquiries from The Seattle Times, Molina and Coordinated Care said that in fact, their plans doinclude coverage.

Coordinated Care’s CEO, Dr. Jay Fathi, said in a statement: “Women who enroll in Ambetter (the exchange plans) from Coordinated Care on the Exchange will have access to and coverage for abortion services. We apologize for any current confusion on this matter. We are presently working with the OIC to clarify this issue.”

Molina spokeswoman Laura Hart said, “Molina’s Marketplace plans do cover pregnancy terminations,” and pointed to language in its “Evidence of Coverage” that spells out coverage.

What happened here?

Thursday afternoon, Jen Allen, policy director for Planned Parenthood Votes, said her organization was “trying to get to the bottom of this.”

Such confusion is “exactly why we need the RPA (Reproductive Parity Act), and why for now, consumers had better be making certain that the plans in which they enroll have the full coverage they need,” Allen said via email.

The Reproductive Parity Act, which failed to pass the Legislature this year, would have required any health plan that covers maternity care or services to offer coverage for voluntary termination of a pregnancy.

The state’s insurance office spokeswoman, Stephanie Marquis, said the confusion arose because of discrepancies in information provided by the insurers.

Forms filed by Coordinated Care didn’t show coverage, Marquis said, and a customer-service representative for Molina told the office its plans did not cover pregnancy termination.

Other insurers offering plans in the state exchange, with two exceptions, cover voluntary termination, despite some uncertainty earlier this year about how they should account for federal funds, which cannot be spent for voluntary termination.

Because of that uncertainty, Group Health Cooperative did not include abortion coverage in its exchange plans but said it will provide the service at its clinics at no additional charge.

Premera’s multistate plans, which are prohibited from covering abortion by federal law, do not include it among its benefits.

Carol M. Ostrom: or 206-464-2249. On Twitter @costrom

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