A bill that would require Hawaii insurance plans to cover everything from folic acid supplements to counseling for sexually transmitted infections is advancing at the Legislature.

The proposal intends to mandate a comprehensive list of sexual and reproductive health benefits for all Hawaii patients, regardless of their race, age or gender.

Benefits that would have to be offered by insurers include an annual preventive health visit check up, procedures such as abortion or voluntary sterilization, as well as a variety of screening and counseling services for sexually transmitted infections, substance abuse, domestic violence, breast cancer and breast feeding, among others. Abortion has been legal in Hawaii since 1970.

A bill that would require insurance plans to cover reproductive health check ups and sexual health screenings and counseling is advancing at the Hawaii State Capitol. 

Senate Bill 2539, introduced by Sen. Roz Baker, also would forbid insurers from charging a co-pay, co-insurance or deductible to patients. It passed the full Senate Tuesday by a 24-1 margin.

“What we wanted to do was sort of set a floor, to say these are the services that women need, particularly in their reproductive years to make sure if they are planning to become pregnant that they will have treatment that carries over into postpartum,” she said.

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Many Hawaii insurance policies already cover a portion of the benefits, but it has not been required by state statute. For example, some “skinny plans” may not cover birth control pills or preventive services and appointments, only hospital care and procedures.

“Really we’re seeing some gaps that would be covered by insurance,” Baker said. “We’re trying to make sure that women have other options and all of them are a full range.”

The House Finance Committee deferred a companion bill.

“I don’t know how that bodes for this one, but maybe they decided this one was positioned to come over,” she said. “I’m going to be optimistic.”

Chair Roslyn Baker conf committee1. 29 april 2016.
Sen. Roz Baker introduced a bill that provides protection for reproductive health care benefits under state law. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Baker said there’s a sense of urgency this year to “make sure women’s health needs were taken care of” as the federal landscape evolves.

Oregon, New York, and California have passed laws that require abortion to be covered by nearly all health insurance plans. In January, the Trump administration issued a Notice of Violation to California regarding its abortion coverage mandates. The administration argued that California is violating federal law by requiring insurers to cover abortion.

Other states have moved to restrict or prohibit abortion procedures from insurance plans, because the Affordable Care Act allows state action on the topic. Texas prohibits some insurance companies from covering abortion unless a woman’s life is in danger.

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