Capital Bureau

SALEM — The state of Oregon will soon require insurers cover specific health services, including abortions, at no out-of-pocket cost to patients.

House Bill 3391, approved by the Oregon Senate Wednesday, now heads to Democratic Gov. Kate Brown’s desk.

The legislation would prohibit plans from imposing a deductible, coinsurance, copayment or other cost-sharing requirements on specific services, such as preventive reproductive healthcare, contraception and postnatal services.

The House passed the bill after hours of debate Saturday, repeated briefly in the Senate Wednesday.

One point of contention: A provision that would have the state separately provide abortion coverage for women who have health insurance through religious employers exempted from covering the service in their health benefit plans.

Under the bill, the Oregon Health Authority will develop a program with the Department of Consumer and Business Services to cover abortion services for employees with those plans.

The bill sets aside about $10 million in the next two years for the Oregon Health Authority to administer the provisions of the bill. The bill also would guarantee coverage of the specified services for Oregon residents regardless of immigration status or gender identity.

Senate Democrats said in a statement that the bill would expand access to contraception for over 18,000 Oregonians and reduce the number of unintended pregnancies in the state.

“This bill is about equity and empowering people to decide whether and when to become a parent,” State Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Beaverton, a family physician who carried the bill, said in a statement. “By providing the full range of reproductive health care — including contraception, abortion and cancer prevention — we can reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, improve women’s health and increase women’s ability to be economically self-sufficient.”

Senate Republicans, on the other hand, said they did not oppose the bill in its entirety, but wanted to amend the bill to exclude required coverage for abortion, a move they portrayed as a possible bipartisan compromise. A motion to refer the bill back to the committee to consider the amendment was voted down.

Many Republicans who spoke on the floor before the vote made clear their opposition to abortion.

“The issue here is really quite simple: What we’re talking about is the unjustified taking of an innocent human life,” said Sen. Dennis Linthicum, R-Beatty.

Linthicum also questioned the bill’s other carrier, Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, about whether Oregonians who do not support abortion should be obligated to pay for the procedure through taxes.

Devlin said that the Oregon Legislature had already settled the question of whether public money should be spent on abortions because state public dollars already go to coverage of the procedure.

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