STL Today, May 18, 2012 by Elizabeth Crisp
JEFFERSON CITY • The Missouri Legislature wants to give employers the right to refuse to provide health care coverage for services that go against their religious or moral beliefs.
The legislation, which is aimed primarily at abortion, contraception and sterilization, made it out of the Capitol today and is heading to Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat. It was not immediately clear whether Nixon plans to sign it. He said during an evening news conference that he plans to review the bill.
Opponents say the effort could limit access to birth control for some women in Missouri. The bill contradicts the federal health care overhaul, which ensures health care coverage for contraceptives.
“We’re telling (women) that their employer knows better about family planning than they do,” said Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis.
But supporters say the bill is about ensuring religious freedom.
“People of faith have a responsibility to their faith. They have rights as well,” said Rep. John McCaherty, R- High Ridge.
Rep. Sandy Crawford, R-Buffalo, said that women can still get birth control on their own dime. Generic runs $9 a month, while some of the more expensive brands run up to $30 a month, she said.
“If I want Ibuprofen or an aspirin – I go purchase it,” she said. “That’s exactly what you can do with this bill.”
Newman said it puts a burden on women of low income and college students.
“Ten dollars to $40 a month is a big deal,” she said.
The bill that passed today doesn’t go as far as some House Republicans had hoped. Earlier in the session, they added a provision that would have allowed medical workers the right to refuse to perform any procedure that goes against their religious or moral beliefs. That was stripped from the final version, but, in addition to the employers-insurance clause, the bill allows people to opt out of coverage for services that they disagree with, such as abortion.
“As someone who is very opposed to abortion I don’t think I should have to pay for that coverage,” Crawford said.
Rep. Genise Montecillo, D-St. Louis, said she disagrees with the ala carte insurance approach.
“If we all start deciding – I don’t like this, I shouldn’t have to pay for it – what kind of insurance will we have left?” she said. “I think it would be pretty pricey to go down that road.”
The Legislature also took aim at the federal health care overhaul today by approving a bill that blocks the creation of a health care exchange in Missouri.