News Releases

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) led a group of Senators in sending a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, urging the department to reconsider the decision to ban coverage for abortion services in Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans (PCIP). PCIPs, which were created by the Affordable Care Act, provide coverage to those who have previously been unable to access insurance coverage due to preexisting conditions. The Affordable Care Act places legal restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortions, but it allows women receiving federal subsidies to purchase reproductive care coverage with personal funds. The recent ruling by HHS goes too far by restricting the use of private or state funds for the purchase of abortion coverage through these high-risk insurance pools, leaving women participating in state-run plans with no access to abortion coverage.

“Congress established the new PCIP to provide comprehensive coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions before the state-based health insurance exchanges are operational in 2014.  The high-risk insurance pool program is intended to level the playing field for Americans who have been unfairly marginalized by the current health insurance marketplace.  As such, the program should ensure that women with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage on par with currently available health plans—which generally include abortion,” the Senators wrote.

The letter was signed by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Roland Burris (D-IL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Charles Schumer (D-NY), John Kerry (D-MA), and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).

The full text of the letter appears below:

Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
Department of Health and Human Services
Attention: OCIIO–9995–IFC,
Mail Stop C4–26–05
7500 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21244–1850 

Re: OCIIO–9995–IFC

Dear Secretary Sebelius:

We are writing in response to the interim final rule the Department of Health and Human Services released on July 30th, 2010 that restricts women’s access to abortion coverage (except for the limited cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment) in the new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans (PCIP) established by Section 1101 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 

We strongly disagree with the Department’s decision to ban coverage for abortion services in PCIP —which impacts both high-risk insurance pools that are administered by the Department, as well as pools that are run by individual states.  We went to great lengths during the health reform debate to ensure women would be able to access comprehensive reproductive health care coverage.  It was especially important that women not be barred from using their private funds to do so. Health care reform [the Affordable Care Act] maintains current legal restrictions against using federal funding for abortions, but also allows women to purchase reproductive health care coverage with their own funds. This interim final rule goes farther than that.  In addition to prohibiting federal funds from being used for abortion under PCIP, the interim final rule restricts the use of private or state funds for the purchase of abortion coverage through these high-risk insurance pools.

This limitation is both unnecessary and unreasonable.  There is nothing in the Affordable Care Act that restricts women’s access to these services in the PCIP.

As a result, women with pre-existing conditions, including cancer, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS, will be left with inadequate coverage.  This is especially troubling because many pre-existing conditions are linked to high-risk pregnancies; these are the very women who may find themselves most in need of abortion coverage.  

 Congress established the new PCIP to provide comprehensive coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions before the state-based health insurance exchanges are operational in 2014.  The high-risk insurance pool program is intended to level the playing field for Americans who have been unfairly marginalized by the current health insurance marketplace.  As such, the program should ensure that women with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage on par with currently available health plans—which generally include abortion.  We are especially troubled by the fact that the guidance does not allow states the option to offer this assurance to women in state-run plans.    

We respectfully urge you to reconsider this decision, and we look forward to continuing to work with you to implement the law in a way that enables women to access the health insurance coverage and services they need to stay healthy.