Concerns are mounting as pro-life employers and individuals are forced to pay for abortion through their insurance plans. As reported last month, the California Department of Managed Health Care is forcing employers—notwithstanding their religious beliefs—to pay for elective abortion in their insurance plans. Noting that this is a clear violation of the Weldon Amendment, attorneys for Life Legal Defense Foundation and Alliance Defending Freedom filed a formal complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services last month. This week the California Catholic Conference filed a complaint of its own. California’s abortion mandate leaves no room for religious employers to avoid paying for elective abortion in a traditionally structured insurance plan.
“The effort to line the pockets of abortion providers through mandatory insurance coverage of elective abortion continues” comments Dana Cody, President and Executive Director of Life Legal Defense Foundation.
Meanwhile, at the federal level, on September 16 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on abortion coverage in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The report, prepared at the request of House Congressional leaders, demonstrates that taxpayer dollars are going to pay for over 1000 health insurance plans that include abortion even though such funding would not be permitted if the Hyde amendment had been applied to the Affordable Care Act. The Hyde amendment specifically prohibits the provision of federal funding for insurance plans that include abortion on demand.
The ACA provides for accounting arrangements that allow its plans to bypass the requirements of the Hyde amendment. Under these provisions, if a plan covers abortion (in cases other than rape, incest or to save the life of the mother), a separate payment for abortion (abortion surcharge) must be collected. However, according to the report, none of the issuers that the GAO interviewed actually collected a separate payment. In fact, the report reveals that the administration informed insurers that they could just itemize the surcharge on enrollee bills rather than collecting two separate payments, but the issuers did not even itemized the abortion surcharge.
“The current administration has repeatedly failed to provide basic transparency about abortion coverage,” states Cody. “Not only do we find federal dollars going to fund plans that include abortion, we also see that the administration is not even following the ACA’s own rules and procedures.”
The GAO report provides a list of all 2014 health plans in states where abortion coverage is allowed and indicates whether they cover abortion. Had it not been for the GAO study, the availability of abortion in individual plans may have remained unknown because it is almost impossible for an individual shopping on the ACA exchanges to find out whether or not abortion is covered under each plan. Out of 18 issuers that the GAO interviewed, 11 did not provide information about abortion coverage prior to enrollment, leaving consumers no choice but to call to find out if a plan includes abortion, and even then, answers were not always forthcoming. According to research by pro-life groups, calls to insurance providers do not necessarily guarantee an accurate answer.
The GAO found that in five states there was not one health care plan offered on the state insurance exchange that did not cover abortion. This directly violates the ACA’s requirement that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) ensure at least one insurance plan in each state does not cover abortion.
“It is time for our state and federal governments to stop trampling the rights of individuals and employers who object to paying for abortion,” states Cody. “Abortion is not health care and no one should be forced to pay for it.”