Every insurance plan in the Washington, D.C., health-insurance exchange forces consumers to pay for abortion coverage, despite provisions in the Affordable Care Act requiring that at least one plan without abortion coverage be offered, according to Anna Higgins, director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity. (UPDATE: See below.) She reported on Wednesday for Townhall:
As a pro-life American and resident of Washington, D.C., I wanted to make sure that there was a plan available under the exchange that did not cover elective abortion. After making quite a few calls to insurance companies and D.C. health exchange representatives, it appears that there is no way to avoid buying a plan that covers elective abortion in D.C. This, despite the fact that the ACA stipulates at least one Multi-State Plan (MSP) offered in each state must not cover elective abortion (PPACA §1334(a)(6)).
Higgins called all three insurance companies offering plans on the D.C. exchange — Carefirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, Kaiser Permanente, and Aetna.
Blue Cross confirmed to her that every plan they offer covers elective abortions and that her premiums would cover other people’s abortions. Kaiser Permanente likewise confirmed that abortion is covered under all individual and family plans offered in the D.C. exchange.
Though Aetna informed her that their plans do not cover abortion, a representative from D.C. Health Link, the health exchange the district runs, told Higgins that “abortion was a ‘central benefit’ and that ‘all qualified health plans’ offered through the D.C. exchange are required to cover ‘preventative services,’ which, in D.C., covers elective abortion.”
A second representative later told Higgins that though HHS doesn’t list abortion as an “essential benefit” that insurance must cover by law, the “preventive services” category all plans have to cover includes abortions, meaning that abortion coverage is mandatory for the D.C. market.
Not only is it illegal for the D.C. exchange to only offer plans which cover elective abortions, Americans have no easy way to find information as to whether any plan across the nation covers abortion or not.
Higgins found no public information on Healthcare.gov or on the D.C. exchange’s site that would link the law’s essential-benefits and preventive-services mandates to abortion.
The Charlotte Lozier Institute repeatedly tried to determine how a consumer might know whether or not a specific insurance plan covers or funds abortion, ultimately to no avail. Institute president Chuck Donovan notes below that Sebelius dodged a question about transparency on abortion coverage at Wednesday’s congressional hearing.
To combat this problem, Representative Christ Smith (R., N.J.) introduced a bill, now before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, that would force insurance companies to make public what plans cover or include surcharges for abortions.
UPDATE: Upon publishing her article, Anna Higgins was contacted by Health Link D.C. and told that the representatives she had spoken to were misinformed. Despite the fact that two employees confirmed that the exchanges offered no plans without coverage of elective abortions, the exchange actually has many such plans and has posted an FAQ update to clear up the confusion. Higgins told me that Health Link D.C. called her to “rectify the situation” and were “very apologetic” about the misinformation. Health Link D.C. also told Higgins that, besides posting the new information, they would re-teach their call-center representatives about the accurate information. Higgins was unable to discover why the call-center representatives believed abortion was an “essential benefit” in the first place.