Despite the administration’s pledges to the contrary, a number of Obamacare exchanges appear to be sending taxpayer dollars to cover insurance plans that provide elective abortions, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.
Taxpayer funding from the Department of Health and Human Services has long been barred for being used directly to fund abortions or to fund insurance plans that cover elective abortions — with the exceptions of rape, incest and danger to the mother’s life. Even though this provision, the Hyde Amendment, applies to the Affordable Care Act, many state exchanges may not be living up to its promise.
In all, 1,036 insurance plans offered on Obamacare exchanges nationwide cover elective abortions, according to a newly-released GAO report, commissioned last year by a number of House Republicans including Speaker John Boehner. Twenty-eight states have placed no restrictions on insurers offering plans on Obamacare exchanges when it comes to abortion; 23 states have. The Obama administration’s legal authority to allow Obamacare exchanges to support these plans is dubious at best.
“The President himself, when he spoke in joint session to Congress on September 9, 2009, said ‘And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up — under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions,'” charged Republican Rep. Joe Pitts, chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health. “This is a violation of the commitment they gave us, gave the public.”
The federal government plays a large role in funding private insurance plans through Obamacare. The federal government doles out premium subsidies directly to insurance companies, so that customers don’t have to pay larger sums up front and wait to be reimbursed.
On top of that, the Obama administration opened up the possibility this summer that it might use taxpayer funding for insurers through the risk corridors provision, to help insurance companies keep their premium rates down. Both ways, it’s clear the feds are directly funding insurance plans that cover elective abortions.
The administration created a way for Obamacare insurers to get around the restrictions without refusing to offer elective abortion coverage. Insurance plans are supposed to estimate the cost of covering elective abortions, collect that amount as a separate surcharge — separate from any premium cost — and use that extra fund, not eligible for federal subsidies, to pay for providing elective abortions. It’s essentially an accounting gimmick that allows the Obama administration to get around the Hyde Amendment requirement that it can’t fund insurance plans that cover abortion.
But according to the GAO, some Obamacare exchange insurers aren’t even fulfilling to this tiny requirement. Fifteen insurance issuers and the Washington state exchange, which bills enrollees directly, do not itemize the premium amount as required and do not issue a separate bill for the elective abortion coverage component, the GAO found.
In five states, each and every plan offered on the Obamacare exchange provides elective abortions. Consumers in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Vermont and Hawaii have no options on the Obamacare exchange that excludes elective abortion.
These problems have already attracted at least one lawsuit: Barth and Abbie Bracy, Connecticut residents who qualify for exchange coverage and premium subsidies, filed a lawsuit earlier this year against Connecticut Obamacare officials for forcing exchange customers to pay the monthly fee for abortion coverage.
Another 15 state Obamacare exchanges support some insurance plans that offer elective abortion; but it may be difficult, if not impossible, for customers to tell which plans do.
Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn reports that out of 18 insurance companies interviewed by GAO, 11 do not tell customers on the Obamacare exchange website whether elective abortion is covered — customers would need to call their insurers directly. The issue of taxpayer-funded abortions aside, pro-life customers will likely find the lack of transparency frustrating.
“Those ironclad promises made by the President of the United States are absolutely untrue,” said New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith. “This equates with the ‘lie of the year’ from last year — ‘if you like your health care plan, you can keep it.'”