Mich. House Okays Ethics-related Health Insurance Bills

Michigan insurance companies and HMOs would not have to provide health care benefits that conflict with the organization’s moral or religious mission under legislation passed this week by the state House.

The bill’s passage was cheered by Right to Life of Michigan supporters, who were in the House chamber’s balcony as the bills passed. The group was having a “legislative day” at the Capitol.

The legislation now goes to the Senate.

The House passed the bills by a 68-38 vote, with some Democrats joining the Republican majority in supporting the legislation.

Insurers could opt not to cover certain drugs or procedures if their objections are reflected in a mission statement or articles of incorporation. Insurers would be required to provide only those benefits already agreed to in a contract or other written policy.

“Simply put, if it’s not in the contract, you don’t have to cover it,” said Rep. Scott Hummel, a Republican from DeWitt who sponsored the legislation.

Opponents of the legislation say it could weaken consumers’ health care benefits, particularly women’s access to birth control and other procedures related to reproduction such as abortion.

The legislation could become a more prominent factor if more religious-affiliated groups decide to self-insure or start HMOs in the future. Democrats said that could raise questions, for example, about how medical coverage for smoking-related illnesses would be covered by religions organizations that are opposed to smoking.

“This is a very slippery slope,” said Rep. Paul Condino, a Democrat from Southfield.

Condino said the bills should have been examined and debated more thoroughly before they were passed.

The bills are favored by the Michigan Catholic Conference and opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood.

Eleven Democrats joined Republicans in supporting the bills. The Democrats were Kathy Angerer of Dundee, Rich Brown of Bessemer, Ed Clemente of Lincoln Park, Andy Dillon of Redford, John Espinoza of Croswell, John Gleason of Flushing, Jeff Mayes of Bay City, Gary McDowell of Rudyard, Michael Sak of Grand Rapids, Joel Sheltrown of West Branch and Dudley Spade of Tipton.