Testimony on HB 1247 - Insurance Mandates for Contraception and Emergency Contraception
To: House Human Services Committee
From: Christopher Dodson, Executive Director
Subject: HB 1247 -- Mandatory Insurance Coverage
Date: January 22, 2003

Pursuant to Vice Chairman Devlin’s request, I have prepared this written summary of the North Dakota Catholic Conference’s concerns regarding House Bill 1247.

The North Dakota Catholic Conference opposes House Bill 1247 for three reasons.

(1) The bill does not contain a definition of “contraceptives” and “emergency contraceptives.” As such, the bill could mandate coverage for abortifacients and chemical abortions, both of which are sometimes characterized as “contraceptives” and “emergency contraceptives.” The North Dakota Catholic Conference opposes any policy mandating insurance coverage for what could be an abortifacient or a chemical abortion.

Moreover, mandating such coverage would be a radical departure from North Dakota law. North Dakota Century Code section 14-02.3-03 prohibits insurance policies from covering abortions except by an optional rider for which the covered person must pay an additional premium. In short, HB 1247, to the extent it mandates abortion coverage, would move the state from prohibiting to mandating abortion coverage.

(2) The North Dakota Catholic Conference believes that any law mandating coverage for such controversial services should include a meaningful conscience exception for employers, payers, enrollees, and religious affiliated entities. The conscience exemption must be meaningful. It cannot exclude any person or entity with a religious or moral objection to the coverage. It must also protect the enrollee’s privacy if they opt not to participate in a plan that includes the objectionable services and an alternative plan must be made available.

(3) Unless a meaningful conscience exemption exists, the mandates in House bill 1247 threaten the ability of health care providers with religious or moral objections, such as Catholic health care providers, to survive in today’s difficult health care market. If health care providers are to adapt to changing demographics and markets they must have the ability to form new partnerships, alliances, and products, including those arrangements that would be characterized as “insurance” under the law. If HB 1247 were to pass in its current form it would place barriers to adaption and possibly eliminate Catholic health care in North Dakota’s future. Since the state has thirty-two Catholic health care facilities serving North Dakotans throughout the state -- perhaps the highest number per capita in the nation, HB 1247 could pose significant and serious problems for health care delivery in North Dakota.