Joan Frawley Desmond, is the Register’s senior editor. She is an award-winning journalist widely published in Catholic, ecumenical and secular media. A graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family, she lives with her family in California..
This week, a pro-life Connecticut couple, Barth and Abbie Bracy, won their battle against their state's health exchange that only offered plans that cover elective abortion, with every policyholder paying a surcharge to underwrite the procedure. On Wednesday, the couple's lawyers voluntarily dismissed their lawsuit against the exchange after state officials agreed to include "plan options that, for the first time in Connecticut, will not require participants to pay for others' elective abortions," according to a news report.
If you hope to enroll in an insurance plan authorized under Obamacare, and you share the Bracy family's pro-life values, it may not be easy to identify a plan that specifically excludes elective abortion. If a state health exchange permits plans that cover the procedure, the lack of clear, explicit information makes it hard to figure out your options until you sift through pages of benefit descriptions and are ready to sign up. And without all the facts, you could end up with a plan that requires payment of a hidden abortion surcharge , which goes into an account used to cover the cost of the procedure.
But help has arrived, just in time for the 2015 Obamacare Open Enrollment Period, which started Nov. 15 and will continue until Feb. 15, 2015.
This week, the House's leading pro-life congressman, Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ, joined with members of the Charlotte Lozier Institute and the Family Research Council, unveiled a new website, Abortion in Obamacare, designed to help consumers figure out their options. See their map below:
Today, I decided to go onto the website to see what I could learn.
The first thing you see on the home page is a color-coded interactive map of the United States. At first glance, you get some welcome news: the brightly colored states, like Wisconsin and North Dakota, don't feature any plans that cover elective abortion.
Start clicking on other states, like Vermont and New Jersey, and you get some really bad news: every single plan they offer includes elective abortion as a "benefit."
But the website is especially helpful when you live in a state, like Massachusetts, which offers a mixed bag. To give you a taste of the information available, here's a bit of what I learned about plans offered on the state exchange.
Total Number of Plans: 123
Number of Plans that Cover Elective Abortion: 110
Number of Plans that Do Not Cover Elective Abortion: 2
Number of Plans with Unknown Coverage: 11
State Has Multi-State Plans (MSPs): Yes
If yes, Number of MSPs: 2
MSPs That Do Not Cover Elective Abortion: 2
Names of Insurance Carriers and Their Elective-Abortion Coverage:
Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA (11 Plans):Some plans cover elective abortion (2014 GAO Report)
Access Blue Basic, a Multi-State Plan: Plan does not cover elective abortion (2014 GAO Report)
HMO Blue $1500 Deductible, a Multi-State Plan: Plan does not cover elective abortion (2014 GAO Report)
Boston Medical Center HealthNet Plan (7 plans): All plans cover elective abortion (2014 GAO Report)
Celticare (9 Plans): All plans cover elective abortion (2014 GAO Report)
Fallon Community Health Plan, Inc. (30 Plans): All plans cover elective abortion (2014 GAO Report)
Harvard Pilgrim Health Plan (11 Plans): All plans cover elective abortion (2014 GAO Report)
Health New England (8 Plans): All plans cover elective abortion (2014 GAO Report)
Minuteman (10 Plans): All plans cover elective abortion (2014 GAO Report)
Neighborhood Health Plan (10 Plans):All plans cover elective abortion (2014 GAO Report)
Tufts Health Plan (8 Plans): All plans cover elective abortion (2014 GAO Report)
Tufts Health Direct (8 Plans): All plans cover elective abortion (2015 Tufts Health Direct Membership Handbook)
*UnitedHealthcare (11 Plans): Unknown
The authors of the website make it clear that they cannot provide all the relevant information, given the continued lack of transperancy. But this is a leap forward that will help pro-life consumers identify plans that exclude the procedure -- along with the abortion surchange.