Politics & Policy

Obamacare’s Abortion Shell Game

Good luck trying to figure out whether plans cover abortion and how they pay for it.

Over the past few months, the Family Research Council (FRC) has reached out to insurance companies in various states to find out whether or not their Obamacare-exchange plans cover elective abortion. If they did, we sought to find out how much the abortion surcharge is (plans that cover abortion do so through a “surcharge” that is not federally subsidized) and how that surcharge is billed. The effort was partly intended to reveal how “transparent” and accessible this information was — it turns out it’s anything but.

FRC wrote about this debacle in the past in regard to the exchanges and plans offered in D.C. and Maryland, after then–HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius said she would provide members of Congress with a list of which plans did and didn’t include elective abortion coverage. She never did, and we discovered that it was very difficult to obtain accurate information.

Section 1303(b)(3)(A) of the Affordable Care Act contains a clause stating that the insurer “shall provide a notice to enrollees, only as part of the summary of benefits and coverage explanation, at the time of enrollment, of such coverage” (emphasis added). The law is deliberately written, in other words, to make it difficult to get this information.

In Connecticut, after the Bracy family lost their non-Obamacare-compliant pro-life plan, they filed a lawsuit in May 2014 alleging there weren’t any pro-life plans available for them to purchase on the exchange. Finding a pro-life plan should not be this daunting.

Our investigation reveals that insurance representatives on exchanges in various states have given information that is inaccurate and inconsistent. For example, representatives from ColoradoHealthOp, an insurer on that state’s exchange, have suggested that some of their plans cover elective abortion, while their online plan resources for those same plans clearly state that they do not cover elective abortion. In another instance, two different representatives from the Colorado insurer Humana vouched that none of their plans cover elective abortion, but according to the plan details, they all do. So which information is right?

Many states don’t even provide plan information on their websites, and a customer is left to the chance knowledge of a customer representative of that company, which seems to differ with every call. Some representatives, such as those from Sharp Health Plan in California and Group Health in Washington State, have told us that they could not answer questions since we were not members. How is one to make a decision about becoming a member before actually knowing the plan details?

Even when plan details are written out, it’s often not clear if the plans refer to elective abortions. It’s not clear whether terms such as such as “interruption of pregnancy,” “pregnancy termination included,” or “abortion services” refer to elective abortions. (We found insurers using such language in California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, for example.)

Other companies kept us on hold, if they answered at all. For example, when we called Montana Health Cooperative our calls went to voicemail on eight different occasions and we never once spoke with a representative.

And the details of the abortion surcharge? Forget about getting a straight answer. Obamacare requires a person who signs up for a plan that covers elective abortion to pay an abortion surcharge of at least $12 per year. When we asked about this surcharge, representatives either had no idea about it, started telling us about deductible costs, or one even referred us to Planned Parenthood to see how much they charge for an abortion. On another occasion, when we asked the insurer Molina in New Mexico about the abortion surcharge, a representative there said “that it would depend on my program, and would be based on my income.” Finding accurate information about the abortion surcharge has proven to be nearly impossible.

We need transparency about abortion coverage, especially from insurers in states that allow Obamacare plans to cover elective abortion. Those states: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.

Americans in the other 25 states that have opted out of abortion coverage still pay federal taxes and that revenue is used by the Obama administration to subsidize health plans with elective abortion coverage elsewhere. There’s no way around it: Taxpayer funds are being used to pay for abortion.

How can Americans get clear answers on this? Congress should pass Representative Chris Smith’s No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act, which would ensure that Americans get clear answers about abortion coverage when purchasing plans and that no taxpayer money goes to pay for abortions. That status quo, whatever defenders of Obamacare say, isn’t acceptable.

— Arina O. Grossu is the director for the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, where she focuses on sanctity-of-human-life issues, ranging from conception to end-of-life care.

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