By Allison Plette
SB 245 (Gonzalez), known as Abortion Accessibility Act, as amended February 14, 2022, and as it relates to the Department of Insurance, adds section 10123.1961 to the Insurance Code to expand access to reproductive health care by eliminating out-of-pocket costs for abortion services covered by health insurance policies. Section 10123.1961 prohibits individual or group policies, certificates of health insurance, and student blanket disability insurance plans that provide coverage for hospital, medical, or surgical expenses that are issued, amended, renewed, or delivered on or after January 1, 2023, from imposing a deductible, coinsurance, copayment, or any other cost-sharing requirement on coverage for all abortion and abortion-related services, including pre-abortion and follow-up services. It also prohibits a health insurer from imposing utilization management or utilization review, including prior authorization and annual lifetime limits on the coverage for outpatient abortion services. According to the author, while California is a leader when it comes to protecting abortion rights, and California is one of six states that require health insurance plans to cover the cost of abortion, deductibles, and copays can range from $40 to thousands of dollars, which are cost-prohibitive for low- and middle-income families. This bill is designed to ensure timely access to care without cost as a barrier.
In October 2021, Governor Newsom announced the Administration’s participation in the California Future of Abortion Council, an advisory group convened by reproductive rights and justice organizations to safeguard and expand reproductive health care access in California. The Council’s recommendations included an endorsement of SB 245, as well as an endorsement of AB 1356 (Bauer-Kahan) (Chapter 191, Statutes of 2021), which protects patients and providers from harassment at reproductive health clinics, and AB 1184 (Chiu) (Chapter 190, Statutes of 2021), which protects the privacy of people receiving reproductive health care and/or gender-affirming care. Both AB 1356 and AB 1184 were signed into law last fall.
Governor Newsom signed SB 245 on March 22, 2022 (Chapter 11, Statutes of 2022).