ANNAPOLIS – Some Maryland health maintenance organizations say they will offer coverage for the newly approved abortion drug RU 486, even though it may be months before Maryland clinics and doctors start providing it.
Aetna U.S. Health Care, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, CIGNA HealthCare and Mid Atlantic Medical Services will offer coverage for RU-486. Kaiser Permanente will determine whether to cover it within the next few months, a spokeswoman said.
Coverage of the drug for all the HMOs is also subject to employer agreement.
Heather O’Neill, an official with Danco Laboratories, the only company in the United States that has the license to oversee production of mifepristone, widely known as RU 486, said that roughly two-thirds of HMOs cover surgical abortions and that she expects the same number will decide to cover mifepristone.
Although the drug won’t be generally available for another three and a half weeks, according to Pam Long, an official with Danco, it was in use at about a dozen sites in the United States during the clinical trial.
The drug will cost about the same as a surgical abortion, which ranges from $300 to $700.
Two of the seven Planned Parenthood of Maryland locations will likely offer mifepristone as soon as possible, according to Roberta Geidner-Antoniotti, PPM president. These locations are the only PPM clinics that offer surgical abortions.
Although she said they want to provide the drug quickly, Geidner- Antoniotti could only say it would be available “within the next year.”
Within the year was also the answer that Vicki Saporta, executive director of the National Abortion Federation, gave even though, as she said, “our members are pretty much ready to provide this as soon as it becomes available.”
Saporta said her organization has trained more than 1,800 health care professionals this year to use mifepristone.
“This is a very safe and effective method for very early abortions,” said Saporta. “There is no reason why (obstetrician/gynecologists), family practice doctors and others can not provide this.”
NAF has 13 members in Maryland, all of whom provide surgical abortions and two of whom expressed an interest in providing mifepristone according to a survey this year of NAF members, said Alyssa Barnum, NAF spokeswoman.