AUGUSTA — A legislative committee voted along party lines Tuesday to advance a bill that would require MaineCare as well as private insurers to pay for abortions.

Federal law prohibits states from spending federal Medicaid dollars on abortion services but allows states to cover the costs from their own coffers. The bill pending in the Legislature would add Maine to the 15 states – including Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut – that provide abortion coverage through their state-administered Medicaid programs.

A fiscal note estimates that providing abortion coverage through MaineCare – the state’s Medicaid program – will cost $227,546 in fiscal year 2019-20 and $375,843 in each of the following three years.

The Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee voted 8-5 to endorse the bill, with all Democrats in support and all Republicans opposed. The bill, L.D. 820, now goes to the full House and Senate for consideration.

Democrats control both chambers of the Legislature, and the administration of Democratic Gov. Janet Mills has endorsed the bill.

Sponsored by Rep. Joyce McCreight, D-Harpswell, the bill also would require private insurance companies that cover maternity care to also cover abortion services with the exception of some religious employers. As written, the bill would go into effect in January 2020.


The committee held a lengthy public hearing on the issue last month and received testimony from more than 200 individuals. While supporters maintain that the bill will increase access to care for low-income women who want to end a pregnancy but cannot afford it, opponents said the proposal will force all Maine taxpayers to help foot the bill for abortions.

Some groups had urged lawmakers to push back the implementation of the change because of concerns about a pending federal rule that would require insurers to send two separate bills – each for just $1 – to consumers to help cover the costs of providing abortion services not paid for by the federal Medicaid program. Insurers cautioned that this requirement will likely cause confusion among insurance consumers.

But committee co-chair Sen. Heather Sanborn, D-Portland, said there is ample time to implement the bill by next January. Sanborn also criticized the federal government’s proposed rules requiring “two-envelope” billing.

“I think they were intended to scare insurance companies from offering this product,” Sanborn said. “And I want to make very clear on mic that I am not OK with the federal government trying to scare insurance companies away from offering health insurance coverage to Maine women.”

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