Governor Gavin Newson signed a bill that will end abortion procedure co-pays and other out of pocket expenses into law on Tuesday in Sacramento.
According to Senate Bill 245, authored by Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), health care plans or disability insurance policies will not be allowed to impose a deductible, coinsurance, copayment or other similar cost-sharing requirement on abortion and abortion-related services. Utilization management and utilization review on abortion services by health care companies and plans for outpatient abortion services will also be prohibited under the bill.
Essentially, SB 245, also known as the Abortion Access Act, will eliminate out of pocket costs for Californians wanting abortions, ranging from $300 to $900 per procedure depending on the type of abortion they seek. The law is now due to take effect beginning on January 1, 2023, with the Department of Managed Health Care and the Department of Insurance to adopt related regulations on or before January 1, 2026.
SB 245 has been in a fight for 14 months. After being introduced in January 2021, the bill was bounced between committees, put on the suspense file, hearing dates were changed, and other tumult. The controversial nature of the bill, as well as issues in the Capitol ranging from COVID-19 procedures to lawmakers demanding changes to the bill, were factors in the constant delays. Nevertheless, the bill slowly passed committees until the summer where it was postponed indefinitely after weeks of inaction.
Marking the high co-payment and other out of pocket fees as big deterrents for many seeking an abortion in California, SB 245 was quickly amended to alleviate some remaining concerns and moved through both houses. On Monday, it received final passage in the legislature, and was moved to Governor Newsom’s desk. Less than 24 hours later, on Tuesday, Newsom signed it into law.
“As states across the country attempt to move us backwards by restricting fundamental reproductive rights, California continues to protect and advance reproductive freedom for all,” said Governor Newsom on Tuesday. “With this legislation, we’ll help ensure equitable, affordable access to abortion services so that out-of-pocket costs don’t stand in the way of receiving care.”
California is eliminating out-of-pocket costs for abortion services, ensuring cost is not a barrier to accessing care.
As states attempt to move us backwards by restricting fundamental reproductive rights, California continues to protect and advance reproductive freedom for all. pic.twitter.com/MGavA5l8Ir
— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) March 23, 2022
Newsom signs SB 245 into law
California First Lady Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who was with the Governor during the signing, also gave a statement of her support for the bill, saying, “In the face of nationwide attacks on reproductive rights, California has taken action to improve access to reproductive care by removing financial barriers to this essential health care. In the Golden State, we value women and recognize all they shoulder in their dual roles as caregivers and breadwinners. California will continue to lead by example and ensure all women and pregnant people have autonomy over their bodies and the ability to control their own destinies.”
Many abortion and women’s groups praised the signing on Tuesday and Wednesday, as did many lawmakers such as Senator Gonzalez, who saw the bill signing as something that had been a long time coming. Many also noted that the bill signing came only hours after the Oklahoma House of Representatives became the latest state legislature to pass a near-total abortion ban.
Governor Newsom signed our bill #SB245 -Abortion Accessibility Act to ensure all pregnant people have equitable access to care without cost barriers! Thank you to 1st Partner @JenSiebelNewsom and my Women’s Caucus colleagues for their unwavering support! We did it! ???????? pic.twitter.com/SZh9JJmgKn
— Lena Gonzalez (@SenGonzalez_33) March 23, 2022
While SB 245 enjoyed a large amount of support, those who opposed the bill noted on Wednesday that the state may not have the resources to meet a large uptick of abortion patients.
“The state knows that they are a bit behind on all of this,” remarked Kelly Davis, an abortion clinic worker in LA County, to the Globe. “There’s no waiting period in California or anything, but we are lagging in those who can perform the procedure. I mean, California is trying to expand the number of people who can perform abortions right now due to the increased number of women coming here seeking abortions.”
With at least 26 states ready to ban all or most abortions, reports indicate that, if it happened, California would see a dramatic 3,000% increase of people traveling into California for abortions.
“And this bill now makes California one of the cheaper options for abortion. Other costs though may rise, as insurance companies and hospitals now need that lost money to come from other sources. See, that’s not what they’re talking about. Yeah, abortions just lost co-pays and abortion tourism will increase, but that is a lot of lost money for many people when it comes to those fees. Other Californians may now have to face the financial price because of this.”
SB 245 is due to become an active law beginning next year.