Update, 10/12 9 am: There’s been some debate in the comments about whether the covered abortions are entirely free, even for students on Columbia insurance. According to page 19 of the insurance brochure, insurance will pay up to $500 for an abortion.

Update, 10/12 6 am: The CU Dems, who first tipped Bwog off to the change in policy, have released a statement pledging to fight for abortion coverage.

Members of the CU Democrats Executive Board have been in continuing conversation with the administration and will continue pressing them on this issue until we achieve a fair solution in which all Columbia women have confidential and complete coverage for abortion. We are planning to launch a campaign in the next few days, working with other students, alumni, and professors to fight for this critical protection. We are confident that if the administration is serious about caring for its students, it will find a solution which ensures that all Columbia students have the same level of care that they did last year.

This could now cost you hundreds of dollars.

Thanks to a change in Health Services policy, it is now much more expensive for most Columbia students to get abortions.

In the past, student abortions were covered by the Health Services Fee, the mandatory $825 fee that all Columbia students must pay each year. Since all Columbia students pay the Health Fee, one abortion per term was covered for every Columbia student. (Just to be clear, Columbia wouldn’t perform the abortions, just pay for them.)

But this year, things are changing. According to the Columbia Student Health Insurance Plan brochure:

Certain services formerly covered under the Columbia Health Fee will now be covered under the Columbia Student Medical Insurance Plan. As a result, the Columbia Health Fee for the 2012-13 plan year will be $824 reduced from $900. The following benefits will now only be covered under the Basic and Comprehensive plans:

  • Treatment of accidental injury or medical emergencies
  • Off-campus mental health services
  • Elective termination of pregnancy
  • Outpatient treatment for chemical abuse

If you have Columbia Health Insurance, then you won’t notice a change; you’ll still have one abortion covered per year. But many students don’t have Columbia Health Insurance, because they’d rather remain on their parents’ health insurance than have somebody pay another $2,000 for Columbia’s policy. If their parents’ insurance doesn’t cover abortions, then those students will have to pay hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket if they want an abortion. And many parents’ health insurance plans won’t cover abortions; in fact, if your parents work for the government, it is illegal for their health insurance plan to cover abortions. This wasn’t a problem when abortions were covered under the Health Fee, since all students had to pay it. But now that abortions are only covered by the Columbia Insurance plan, many students are out of luck.

So why the change? It has to do with Health Services’ interpretation of Obamacare. Basically, Health Services is worried that Obamacare will treat the Health Fee as a full insurance plan that doesn’t cover enough stuff. To avoid this, they took out all the things—like abortion coverage—that made it seem like an inadequate health insurance plan.

Health Services may think their hands are tied, but it’s not clear that’s the case. Other universities are able to cover abortions for all students without running afoul of Obamacare. Plenty of groups around the country have set up basic funds to cover abortions for people in need. It’s not clear why the University couldn’t just set aside a pile of money for students seeking elective abortions.

Pregnancy test via Wikimedia Commons