A bill that would allow the Georgia World Congress Center Authority to provide its own insurance plan added a surprise amendment Monday that would...

A bill that would allow the Georgia World Congress Center Authority to provide its own insurance plan added a surprise amendment Monday that would restrict abortion coverage for state employees.

The amended legislation passed on a 34-15 vote in the Republican-dominated Senate. It would bar coverage for abortion in the 650,000-plus-member State Health Benefit Plan. The only exception would be for situations in which the life of the mother is in danger or it’s needed “due to the mother’s medical necessity.”

The bill still must be reconciled with the House version of the legislation, which does not address abortion.

The Georgia World Congress Center recently left the state health plan, which  covers teachers, other school personnel and state employees, along with dependents and retirees.

It’s considered the first major abortion-related legislation in this year’s General Assembly.

Gov. Nathan Deal said Tuesday that he supported the abortion coverage restrictions, according to an AJC article.

“Within the context of the state employees’ health benefit plan, this should be an auxiliary benefit that’s paid for separately,” said Deal, who said he was taken by surprise by the legislation. “That’s the effort that was undertaken in the Senate yesterday, and I support that.”

Last year, the Legislature passed what was known as a “fetal pain bill’’  that made Georgia the latest state to generally ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The abortion language in House Bill 246 is among health-related issues still to be decided in the last week of the General Assembly, including legislation to require a ‘‘return to play’’ medical protocol for school athletes suffering concussions; a measure to offer a statewide referendum that would allow sales of fireworks; and a proposal to let pharmacists, who can give flu shots, administer other adult immunizations.

A proposed Medicaid pay cut still looms for many medical providers, except for hospitals, hospices, primary care doctors, rural health clinics and federally qualified health centers. The House removed the 0.74 percent pay cut in Gov. Nathan Deal’s budget, but the Senate restored half of it, putting the reduction at 0.37 percent.

The abortion amendment to House Bill 246, introduced by Sen. Mike Crane (R-Newnan), drew sharp criticism from some Democrats, including Sen. Valencia Seay (D-Riverdale), who argued it was an attack on women.

Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta) offered an amendment to bar abortion coverage for all health insurance plans, but it was ruled non-germane.

An amendment to allow the exceptions of rape and incest in abortion coverage in the State Health Benefit Plan was defeated.

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Andy Miller

Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News

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