Georgia’s Department of Community Health is forcing through new abortion restrictions on the state health insurance plan that failed to pass in the Legislature.
The department vote 5-3 on Thursday to ban abortion coverage from the public employees’ health plan. The State Health Benefit Plan (SHBP) covers more than 650,000 teachers, state employees, and other school personnel, dependents, and retirees.
Republican Gov. Nathan Deal said that he was determined to use executive power to remove abortion coverage from the SHBP. During the 2013 meeting of the Georgia General Assembly, Deal backed an identical measure that failed to pass.
Deal congratulated the Community Health board for making sure “that state taxpayers aren’t paying for a procedure that many find morally objectionable.”
The anti-abortion group behind the legislation, Georgia Right to Life, said the governor would work with the Department of Community Health.
“Governor Deal has offered an executive solution, by using his regulatory powers, to assure that taxpayer funds will not be used for elective abortions,” Mike Griffin of Georgia Right to Life told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We hope that he’ll be able to work with the Department of Community Health and be able to apply an executive solution where a legislative solution is not going to be found.”
The abortion exclusion was mired in further controversy as United Healthcare is protesting a decision by the Department of Community Health to award two contracts to Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS). United wants the opportunity to compete with BCBS to provide state employees with health coverage. Losing out on the bid is a major blow to United’s presence in Georgia.
“In what has to be one of the most egregious examples of a state entity acting outside the boundaries of Georgia procurement law, the Department of Community Health ... is conducting a secret, hidden procurement for one or more 2014 health insurance plan,’’ said United in a statement.