Lawmakers Demand Hearing on Women’s Health Rider Repeal Bills

Sen. Whitmer, Rep. Roberts aim to get rid of discriminatory insurance law
Thursday, July 10, 2014

LANSING — Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) and State Rep. Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores) delivered letters to Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and House Insurance Committee Chair Rep. Pete Lund to request hearings on Senate Bill 1010 and House Bill 5697, their legislation to repeal the discriminatory and dangerous women’s health care rider law passed in December 2013. Whitmer and Roberts introduced their legislation last month, but have received no indication that the Republican majorities in either body plan to take up the legislation.

“When this appalling ‘rape insurance’ law was passed, Republican legislators not only circumvented Michigan voters but the legislative process as well, passing the legislation without a single committee hearing or any opportunity for public testimony,” Whitmer said. “We are only asking our colleagues that ignored the innumerable men and women, business owners, legal experts, doctors and nurses who opposed this law when it passed to listen to them now on its repeal.”

SB 1010 and HB 5697 repeal the controversial law that forces women to buy additional health insurance coverage for necessary medical care during various complications during a pregnancy or an abortion even in cases of rape, incest or when the woman’s health is in jeopardy. While it requires women to buy the added insurance, however, few insurance companies – just seven of 42 health insurance companies in Michigan – are even selling it. And the companies that do sell the rider are only making it available as an add-on to an existing employer-offered health plan. It’s not available to any woman who pays for insurance herself, or who shops for it on the state’s health care exchange.

“There are many things wrong with the women’s health rider law, from the way it unfairly punishes women who planned their pregnancy and are facing miscarriages due to fetal abnormalities to the lack of medical expertise sought when the language of the law was written to the way it was rammed through the Legislature with no testimony from those who will be directly – and adversely – affected by it,” Roberts said. “These letters are simply asking for a fair review of the law. If Republicans and Right to Life of Michigan are as proud of this law as they claim, then they should be willing to hear from those it harms and defend it.”

Republicans passed the law prohibiting insurance companies from offering comprehensive health insurance after Right to Life of Michigan 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 and passed it into law without a single committee hearing, thereby allowing 3 percent of the state’s population who signed the petition to dictate health care for Michigan women and their families.

The Republican-led Legislature has been at recess for more than four weeks since these bills have been introduced. HB 5697 has been assigned to the House Committee on Insurance, chaired by Lund. SB 1010 has not been assigned to a Senate committee yet, but Whitmer sent a letter to Richardville asking for prompt action on assigning the bill to a committee and holding a hearing on the legislation.