The Georgia Department of Community Health voted 5 to 3, with one abstention, at a meeting last Thursday to approve a new benefit plan that eliminates abortion coverage from the insurance plans of over 650,000 state employees, bypassing a legislature that refused to pass a similar measure during the 2013 legislative session.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, under the plan, abortion coverage will be eliminated for all State Health Benefit Plan members except in cases when the pregnant person’s life is in danger; this is more restrictive than federal law, which allows exceptions for rape and incest. The new plan is slated to go into effect in January 2014.
The plan reportedly did not elicit significant discussion among board members at the meeting.
The Associated Press reported that after the vote, Republican Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal commended the board, saying the new plan ensures “state taxpayers aren’t paying for a procedure that many find morally objectionable.”
In fiscal year 2011, 366 people sought abortions using the state insurance plan, resulting in $213,000 in payments, the AP noted, down from two years earlier, state insurance payments for abortions totaled $343,000.
Using medical boards and internal policy committees to implement reproductive health-care restrictions that do not make it through the legislature is a growing trend in a number of states. Most recently, the board of medicine in Iowa has been reviewing, and may end, the state’s telemedicine abortion program, after numerous abortion restrictions failed to pass in the state legislature during the 2013 session.