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Chapel Hill mayor opposes opt-in abortion coverage policy

Abortion not covered by some towns

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt is taking action to reverse a change in health coverage that requires some employees of towns across the state to ask for abortion coverage.

Kleinschmidt wrote a letter to express his dissatisfaction with a Feb. 11 change in the N.C. League of Municipalities’ CIGNA health care plan. He said requiring employees to opt in for coverage would politicize their health issues.

The league is a federation of more than 530 communities across the state, and the CIGNA insurance plan is one option available to its members.

Although Chapel Hill employees do not use the league’s plan, Kleinschmidt said the town should be concerned because city employees are covered by some of the league’s other insurance options.

With the new policy, communities covered by the league’s health care plan do not receive insurance payments for elective abortions unless the town chooses to adopt those benefits.

Previously, all elective abortions were covered under the plan.

“They must now choose whether to engage this challenging issue in a political atmosphere that invites an onslaught from those who would desire to politicize reproductive health issues, or to do nothing and thereby deny their employees the benefits of comprehensive reproductive health care,” Kleinschmidt wrote in the letter.

The new policy still allows coverage of abortions for medical reasons of necessity, rape or incest, regardless of whether the town adopts coverage for elective abortions.

The league has made no recommendation as to whether a community should adopt elective abortion coverage.

Kleinschmidt said N.C. General Assembly Rep. Minority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake, played a role in inducing the change.

Stam said he contacted several league members in January about the policy because some cities did not want elective abortion coverage.

“Most towns, I’ve discovered, were even unaware they covered elective abortions,” Stam said.

Kleinschmidt contended that Stam pushed the change in insurance policy as a bullying measure to get more influence.

“He’s not using sound legal theory, just scare tactics,” Kleinschmidt said. “It’s wrong-headed legally and politically.”

Stam said he has never used a scare tactic in his life.

Kleinschmidt suggested an “opt-out” policy for the league, where towns that felt strongly that abortions should not be covered would invite that debate into their community rather than offering the same plan across the state.

“While it is my hope that elected officials in the participating municipalities will choose to put the health interests of their employees ahead of their own political comfort, I fear that that will not be the case,” he said in the letter.

The league should consider changing the reproductive health benefits, Kleinschmidt said.

“Any time an employer seeks to provide comprehensive health care, the full scope of reproductive health care should be provided,” he said.

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