Why West Chester’s abortion stance could be costly

The West Chester Twp. trustees rejected the township’s health insurance contract renewal because they don’t believe taxpayers should have to pay for abortions, but the move could be costly in the end.

Trustees Ann Becker and Mark Welch are against renewing Aetna’s policy with the township because abortions are a covered benefit. Becker said she learned about the benefit a couple months ago and asked if they could take it out, because she doesn’t think taxpayer money should pay for abortions.

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“We did stop the Aetna renewal,” she said. “It’s not because of the health care; it’s just the moral aspect of using taxpayer money to pay for abortions.”

Welch said he doesn’t know when the clause about abortions got into the contract, but he too opposes the idea, especially because the policy doesn’t put any conditions on the benefit.

“I think it was something that was just below the radar…,” Welch said. “It’s one of those things that could be divisive, but I think abortion really should be reserved for those three instances — rape, incest and the mom’s health.”

With the renewal rejection Township Administrator Larry Burks said if they must re-bid the contract the 4.99 percent price increase could go as high as 14 percent with another carrier. That’s a difference of $221,177 versus $620,343 on the $4 million-plus contract.

Burks told the Journal-News they have time to research the issue — the new policy starts Jan. 1 — before a final decision is made to look for a new provider or stick with Aetna.

“We still have time for that renewal and we’re still waiting to hear back from Aetna on whether or not they’d be willing to take that out,” Burks said. “Right now we’re collecting data and working with (lawyers) to come up with information to make a sound, informed decision for the trustees.”

Burks said this is a very complicated issue with “many layers” especially because union contracts are involved.

“What our contracts basically say is we shall provide health insurance from year to year that is roughly the same,” Law Director Don Crain told the trustees. “If you remove a coverage you probably have to replace it with something else similar. There are all kinds of options available that we could look at.”

MORE: Butler County staring down 14 percent health insurance hike

Trustee Board President Lee Wong voted in favor of the renewal because “I am here to save taxpayers money” but agreed there should be conditions, like Welch mentioned, if the township must keep the coverage.

When asked about the potential price difference to remove abortion coverage, Welch said that is something he will factor in when they make a final decision. He said he needs to know not just the price differential if they have to find a new provider, but also if they will incur hefty legal fees if this turns into a battle with the union.

“I think it’s worth every effort by the township to do the due diligence and to give us an idea of what it might cost, and how long it might take in order to take this out…,” Welch said. “I’m expecting the township to go through an estimate of really everything.”

Meg Wittman, executive director of Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, weighed in on the trustees’ stance on abortion.

“Abortion is not health, and it is not care. Under no circumstance should pro-life customers and American citizens be forced to partake, financially or otherwise, in any activity that violates their convictions,” she said. “Cincinnati Right to Life commends the West Chester Township trustees who raised this issue and stand for the rights of the unborn.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights said abortions should not be treated differently than any other medical procedure.

“Abortion care should be treated like any other medical service. Singling out one specific medical procedure for exclusion from an insurance policy goes against the very purpose of insurance,” the Center replied in a statement to the Journal-News. “No one can guess which specific health services they will require in the future, including women who will face an unintended pregnancy or a pregnancy in which complications arise. Individuals buy health insurance to ensure that they are covered for expected and unexpected health needs.”

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