Individual and small business health insurance plans must cover abortion care in NJ, new state rules

New Jersey will require individual and small business health insurance plans to cover abortion care starting Jan. 1, the state Department of Banking and Insurance announced Friday.

The new rules will take effect for large businesses later in 2023, state officials said in a news release.

New Jersey is already among the states with the strongest abortion rights protections, and most insurers in New Jersey’s individual and small employer markets already provide some type of coverage for abortion. But until now, the requirement has not been explicit, and insurers could limit abortion coverage to cases of rape, incest, or threat of death, according to a study on access to reproductive health care by the department, released in November.

The state boards that govern insurers in the individual and small business markets unanimously approved the change Thursday. Insurance carriers estimate the change could raise premiums by, at most, 0.1%, state officials said.

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New Jersey is among a minority of states that have ramped up protection for abortion rights following a US Supreme Court ruling that overturned the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy. The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling in June said it is up to states to decide whether and when to permit abortion.

Abortion is legal at any stage of pregnancy in New Jersey. Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation in early 2022 codifying the right to abortion, and in June, New Jersey added protections for out-of-state patients and doctors treating them.

New Jersey is one of several states where abortion is covered without restriction by Medicaid, the publicly funded health program for low-income residents.

In Pennsylvania, abortion remains legal up to the 24th week of pregnancy, but rules such as a 24-hour waiting period, mandatory consultation to review alternatives, and blood tests that are often unnecessary restrict access for some.

Private insurance is not required to cover abortion in Pennsylvania, although many offer at least some coverage. And whether Medicaid should be required to pay for abortion is at the center of an ongoing Pennsylvania Supreme Court case.

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