Issue 595 - May 24, 2024

House Passes Contested Bill to

Mandate Abortion Coverage


Medicaid, State Employee Health Plans, and Private Insurers Would be Required to Cover Abortions with No Co-Pay or Deductible


By a vote of 26 to 11, the House of Representatives on Thursday passed a provocative bill to require Medicaid, the State Employee Group Health Insurance Plan (GHIP), and private insurers to provide mandatory coverage for abortions.


Under House Substitute 2 for House Bill 110, sponsored by House Majority Leader Melissa Minor-Brown (D-New Castle), coverage would not be subject to a deductible, copayment, or other cost-sharing requirement.


According to KFF, a policy research organization, 17 states finance abortions for people enrolled in Medicaid. Only nine states require group and individual healthcare plans to include abortion coverage with no cost-sharing.


Since 1977, federal law (the Hyde Amendment) bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortions except when the life of the mother is in jeopardy or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. State Rep. Charles Postles (R-Milford), in photo, said it was inappropriate to use state money to electively terminate pregnancies. “I think it is unfair for taxpayers that are opposed to this procedure to have to pay for this,” he told his colleagues during the debate. 

Rep. Minor-Brown said that “abortion is healthcare” and that her bill would “act as another step in ensuring equitable access to healthcare.” 


Under the bill, Medicaid and private healthcare insurers would be required to cover up to $750 for abortion services. According to the Controller General’s Office, the legislation would cost taxpayers $250,000 to implement and about a half-million dollars annually to provide. No estimate was given for the legislation’s impact on private insurance ratepayers.


State Rep. Valerie Jones Giltner (R-Georgetown) took issue with the proposal, saying it gave priority to abortion coverage over that provided for other healthcare issues. She noted that services like routine eye care, corrective glasses, drugs to treat sexual dysfunction, infertility services, and hearing aids (for those over 21) are not covered by Medicaid. 


“To say that there should be no deductible, no co-pay, for anybody that gets an abortion, even if they have private insurance, is not sound financial judgment,” Rep. Jones Giltner said. She added that even cancer patients were subject to cost-sharing and that the legislature needed to stop taking politically motivated actions that drive costs higher. “[We need] healthcare dollars could go further and cover more patients,” she said.


State Rep. Jeff Hilovsky (R-Long Neck, Oak Orchard) also cited costs as a critical reason for his opposition. “We’re asked to be responsible with other people’s money, O-P-M, and yet we keep adding services [to the list of mandatory insurance coverage] over and over and over again to the amount of O-P-M we spend. And I am not sure that continues to serve the public well, especially when the procedure is elective.”


The bill is now pending consideration in the Senate Health & Social Services Committee. Seven of the Senate’s 21 members, including President Pro Tempore David Sokola (D-Newark, Pike Creek), are sponsoring the bill, which is expected to win approval before the end of the legislative session on June 30th.

Legislation Will Give Politically Appointed Board Financial Oversight of Hospitals

A revised bill that will soon become law will give a politically appointed board financial oversight of Delaware's non-profit hospitals.

On Tuesday, the House passed a revised version of House Substitute 2 for House Bill 350 (as amended) by a vote of 24 to 16.

Governor John Carney issued a statement following the bill’s passage indicating his readiness to sign it into law. “Rising healthcare costs are having a significant impact on Delaware families and state taxpayers. House Bill 350 will help lower the growth of healthcare costs in our state while making sure we’re protecting healthcare quality and access.”

The original bill was amended to make significant changes after negotiations with the Delaware Healthcare Association, which represents the state's hospitals.  

Under the modified legislation, the governor will appoint seven members to the new Diamond State Hospital Cost Review Board, including representation from all three counties. The President and CEO of the Delaware Healthcare Association will serve as a non-voting member.

Hospitals will annually submit their operating budget, capital budget, recent expenditures, and workforce development efforts to the board for review. Hospitals with budgets exceeding a benchmark targeted growth rate or not meeting other performance parameters may be required to fashion an improvement plan.

The bill retains the board's authority to levy fines of up to $500,000 on hospitals that willfully fail to comply, but it eliminates the board's power to seize hospital assets.

The compromise legislation also revises two other highly criticized aspects of the original proposal. First, the method for determining medical service price controls was restructured. Hospital officials had warned that the protocol in the original bill would have resulted in a loss of $360 million annually. Second, the hospital budget growth benchmark will be calculated to better reflect hospital expenses.

While the amended bill marked a willingness to strike a consensus that nearly all lawmakers welcomed, the curtailed legislation still fell short of universal appeal.

“I don’t believe the creation of a politically appointed board is going to serve the best health needs of Delaware,” said State Rep. Mike Smith (R-Pike Creek Valley), speaking on the House floor. “In a one-party state there is always going to be that implicit and unintended bias that is included in it. I’ve seen it [at worlk] in different task forces.”

In remarks later in the debate, State Rep. Bryan Shupe (R-Milford South), in photo, criticized one of the bill's supporters who said the legislation was intended to stabilize hospital growth. 

“We don’t want stabilized growth,” Rep. Shupe said. “We want growth. We want innovation. We want more doctors to come here. We want to be the best in healthcare in the region. We have more and more people coming. Our communities are aging. We have more and more people from aging populations moving here. We need our healthcare to be first-class, and we need it to be growing quickly. We need it to be growing in innovation. We need it to be growing [as directed] by the experts on the ground.”

State House Minority Whip Lyndon Yearick (R-Camden, Wyoming) said the bill’s sponsors and the Carney administration should have taken steps to better manage the state's healthcare costs before imposing state control over Delaware’s non-profit hospitals. “If we are trying to find the best possible value, there were some other ideas we could have considered,” he said. "House Bill 350 is not a solution…It is only going to exacerbate the problem. It is going to be Deja Vu all over again. Every year, we’ll be coming back to look at this issue again.”

Legislation Seeks to Help Veterans Get the Assistance They Need

HB 399 Would Create the Delaware Department of Veterans Affairs


A new bipartisan bill seeks to give military veterans additional assistance to get the benefits they have earned.


House Bill 399, sponsored by State Rep. Bill Carson (D-Smyrna), proposes to

create the Delaware Department of Veterans Affairs, led by a cabinet-level secretary.


State Rep. Jeff Hilovsky (R-Long Neck, Oak Orchard), in photo, one of the bill’s prime sponsors, says this is a move the state must make. “In other states, about 30% of all veterans receive some disability payment. In Delaware, it’s 22%. That difference translates into tens of millions of lost dollars that could be used to improve the lives of our veterans.”

Under the bill, the current Commission on Veterans Affairs would be moved into the new department. The 15-member group consists of volunteer members representing each branch of the military. It works with veterans and identifies issues that need attention.


Rep. Hilovsky said one of those issues is the Delaware Veterans Home. Due to inadequate staffing, the facility is operating at only 50% of capacity. “They are not paying competitive wages and can’t attract and retain people they need,” he said. “If we had a Secretary of Veterans Affairs, that person would have a seat at the table to raise awareness and get this the consideration it deserves. Not only that, but a cabinet-level secretary will have access to information and resources the commission lacks and will have the ability to make decisions and act. That will have a huge impact on outcomes for veterans.”


The Office of the Controller General estimates that creating the Delaware Department of Veterans Affairs will cost taxpayers a little more than $1 million annually. Rep. Hilovsky says that relatively humble investment will yield massive returns. Referencing Delaware’s disability benefits gap, he said if the department can bring Delaware veterans on par with the national average, it could mean additional millions annually to help veterans with disabilities.


Supporters of the bill, which includes more than a third of all state lawmakers sponsoring or co-sponsoring the measure, note the department could have other positive effects that would be no less important. “About 22 former servicemen and women commit suicide every day,” Rep. Hilovsky said. “I believe a department with a cabinet-level secretary can solicit ideas and implement help in a way that could meaningfully curtail that tragic statistic.”


While late in the legislative session, the sponsors of HB 399 are optimistic that they can get the bill through both chambers of the General Assembly before the session ends on June 30th


The Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council's work earlier this week raised the bill's prospects for success. According to forecasts issued by the nonpartisan group, the state can expect nearly $250 million in additional revenues for FY 2025, which starts on July 1st.

Delaware Ranks First on Regrettable List

According to data compiled by Visual Capitalist and released in an infographic earlier this month, Delaware had the Lowest Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of any state in the nation in 2023.

GDP is the total monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a particular jurisdiction over a specific period and functions as a broad measure of economic health.

Visual Capitalist noted that "while the U.S. economy defied expectations in 2023, posting 2.5% in real GDP growth, several states lagged behind. Delaware witnessed the slowest growth in the country, with real GDP growth of -1.2% over the year, as a sluggish finance and insurance sector dampened the state’s economy."

Delaware was the only state posting a negative GDP growth rate. The First State's poor performance outpaced #2 on the list, Wisconsin, by more than a full percentage point.

Click here to see the complete post.

Graphic used with the permission of Visual Capitalist.

Consumer Protection Bill Clears House

A modest consumer protection bill that won unanimous approval in the House of Representatives this week could help keep countless Delaware seniors from falling prey to scammers.

House Bill 317 would require that all sellers of third-party gift cards display a notice of potential scams involving gift cards.  

Scams utilizing gift cards are commonplace. Con artists posing as representatives of government agencies, utilities, businesses, and other entities contact targets, often senior citizens, trying to pressure them into sending payments using the cards.

More than 6,000 Delawareans were reported to have fallen victim to such tactics last year, with half of them losing more than $700 each.

"Here in Delaware, we’ve lost $22.3 million to fraud," said Delaware State AARP Director Lucretia Young in a prepared statement. "Delaware ranks 4th out of all states for overall fraud reports...AARP fully supports HB 317."

State Rep. Mike Ramone (R-Pike Creek South) joined State Rep. Larry Lambert (D-Claymont, Brandywine Hundred) as a prime sponsor of the legislation. State Rep. Rich Collins (R-Millsboro) was among the co-sponsors. The legislation now heads to the Senate for consideration.


For more information on gift card scams, including how to recognize and report them, click here.