Newsom signs bill to prevent health insurance companies, plans from charging abortion co-pays, fees

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation Tuesday that officials said will reduce barriers to reproductive health care in California, namely by eliminating out-of-pocket costs for people seeking abortions and related services through health plans.

The Abortion Accessibility Act, SB245, prevents health insurance companies from requiring co-pays, deductibles and other charges for abortions, and it prohibits them from imposing utilization management practices on covered reproductive health services, Newsom’s office said in a statement.

Co-pays and deductibles can surpass $1,000 and tend to get more expensive as the fetus develops, often putting pregnant people who need or want abortion services in a position where they cannot afford reproductive care, officials said. SB245 will ensure that anyone seeking abortion services in California will have “autonomy over their own bodies and the ability to control their own destinies,” First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom said in a statement.

The bill was authored by Sen. Lena A. Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, and takes effect at the start of next year. It comes as some other states have imposed restrictions on abortion access amid nationwide debate about the future of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that abortion is a constitutional right up to the point of fetal viability.

Barriers to abortion, including high costs, disproportionately affect people of color, people who have low income, LGBT people and individuals with disabilities, Gonzalez said in a statement.

“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,” Newsom said in a statement. California is one of six states in the country to require health insurance plans to cover abortion services, officials said.

The California Future of Abortion Council, an advisory group focused on reproductive health care, recommended the bill’s passage last year as a way to make abortion services more affordable and accessible. Newsom signed a Proclamation on Reproductive Freedom in 2019 — a symbolic commitment to safeguarding choice and access in reproductive health care.

“Eliminating out-of-pocket costs for abortion for people with private insurance is a major step in California’s commitment to being a Reproductive Freedom state — making abortion services more accessible and affordable for all people in California,” Jodi Hicks, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said in a statement Tuesday. “SB 245 becoming law means that more Californians will be able to access the care they want, when they want.”

Separately, Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, proposed a bill Thursday that would create a state fund to support people who travel to California to obtain an abortion. SB1142, co-authored by Sen. Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, would establish a fund that would help pregnant people who were denied abortions in other states pay for travel, housing, food, child care and other services while seeking reproductive care in California.

Andy Picon (he/him) is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @andpicon