QualChoice of Arkansas won't alter abortion policy | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, April 3, 2014

QualChoice of Arkansas won't alter abortion policy

Posted By on Thu, Apr 3, 2014 at 4:10 PM

Catholic Health Systems Inc.'s plan to acquire private insurance company QualChoice Holdings Inc. does not mean that persons insured under QualChoice of Arkansas will lose the coverage of reproductive care, including medically necessary abortion, that their policies now offer.

QualChoice of Arkansas President and CEO Mike Stock issued this statement:

“We don’t anticipate any changes to our benefit policies and procedures. QualChoice has always complied with applicable state and federal regulations requiring specific levels of benefits and that will not change. CHI’s mission is to create and nurture healthier communities. Through QualChoice, CHI expects to improve and expand access to affordable healthcare coverage, offering benefits and comprehensive care to more individuals in the markets we serve. CHI will be in a better position to extend health care services to individuals who now have no insurance, making care more affordable and accessible, especially to those who are less fortunate.

To the extent federal and/or state governments mandate coverage for healthcare benefits, QualChoice is required to comply with those federal and state laws where applicable. To the extent mandated benefits conflict with the Catholic Ethical and Religious Directives, QualChoice will institute appropriate administrative practices consistent with the way other Catholic organizations have operated health plans and continue to do so within the Catholic moral tradition.”

I'm not sure I can parse that statement, but the Affordable Care Act requires employers and schools to offer contraceptive coverage in the health insurance plan they offer. The state legislature enacted a law in 2013 that would ban abortion coverage in policies issued under the health exchange that the ACA creates, which is of problematic legality. 

QualChoice offers abortion coverage in the case of danger to the health of the mother, rape or incest, or fetal non-viability. 

CHI, one of the largest nonprofit hospital systems in the country and the parent of St. Vincent Health System, announced yesterday that CHI subsidiary Collab Health would buy the company through a stock-purchase agreement. 

You'll remember that Bishop Anthony Taylor had qualms about the now-abandoned idea to merge St. Vincent with UAMS, where patients may receive contraceptive care and medically necessary abortions, and helped put a stop to the acquisition of Mercy Hospital in Hot Springs by National Park Medical Center hospital there for the same reasons. Taylor has not yet commented on the acquisition of QualChoice, which insures all state employees and public school employees and those who've retired from the state and the school system, but St. Vincent Health System has been a shareholder in QualChoice for 15 years. 

[UPDATE]: The bishop released this statement: 

Bishop Taylor is studying the proposed CHI acquisition of QualChoice and prefers to hold off making any public comments until later.

Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford praised the move, since CHI's very deep pockets will allow QualChoice to expand coverage in Arkansas. 

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