By Jennifer Popik, J.D Director of Federal Legislation
This past Monday, August 6, 102 Members of Congress sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar requesting new regulations related to Obamacare and subsidies to plans that cover abortion.
The letter, spearheaded by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and strongly supported by National Right to Life, asks the administration to enforce the Obamacare requirement that insurers offering plans in the state marketplaces must collect a separate payment (or “abortion surcharge”) if the plan covers elective abortion.
Unfortunately, but as NRLC warned, Obama-era regulations have essentially permitted insurance companies to hide the abortion surcharge from consumers.
According to Rep. Smith, chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus,
Obamacare’s abortion surcharge is practically invisible to consumers. Consumers have a right to know. Abortion is not healthcare—it dismembers and chemically poisons defenseless unborn children and hurts women. The Trump Administration now has the opportunity to take action and enforce the law to bring transparency to Obamacare’s abortion coverage and the abortion surcharge. No person should have to pay for abortion coverage they don’t want.
At the time Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, an array of long-established laws, including the Hyde Amendment, had created a nearly uniform policy that federal programs did not pay for abortion or subsidize health plans that included coverage of abortion, with narrow exceptions. Regrettably, provisions of the 2010 Obamacare health law ruptured that longstanding policy.
Among other objectionable provisions, the Obamacare law authorized massive federal subsidies to assist many millions of Americans to purchase private health plans that cover abortion on demand. For documentation, please see:
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that between 2015 and 2024, $726 billion will flow from the federal Treasury in direct subsidies for Obamacare health plans. In September, 2014, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report that confirmed that elective abortion coverage is widespread in federally subsidized plans on the Obamacare exchanges.
In the 27 states (plus D.C.) that did not have laws in effect to restrict abortion coverage, over one thousand exchange plans covered abortion, the report found. (See “GAO report confirms elective abortion coverage widespread in Obamacare exchange plans.”)
Some defenders of the Obamacare in 2010 insisted that this was not really “federal funding” of abortion because a provision in Section 1303 of Obamacare stated that a “separate payment” would be required to cover the costs of the abortion coverage. National Right to Life and other pro-life groups dismissed this as a mere bookkeeping gimmick that sharply departed from the principles of the Hyde Amendment.
In the years since the enactment of Obamacare (known officially as the Affordable Care Act—ACA), it became evident that the Obama Administration disregarded the inadequate measure of segregating funds and sharply departed from the principles of the Hyde Amendment. The Obama Administration issued Section 1303 regulations permitting insurance companies to ignore separate payment requirements which included failing to require insurers to disclose the abortion surcharge from consumers.
A statutory fix, such as the House-passed the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 7), is necessary to remedy the severe problems with the ACA in regard to abortion coverage. However, there are steps the Trump Administration can take to mitigate ACA’s massive expansion of abortion coverage.
According to National Right to Life Executive Director David N. Osteen, Ph.D.
Until the day that Congress can repeal the abortion-expanding elements of Obamacare, we support the effort of Congressman Smith and over 100 members of Congress in urging new regulations that could at least ensure basic transparency is provided to consumers – and inform them when they are paying for abortion coverage they do not want.