WASHINGTON — Two days before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., pointed out what he called the “Big Three Obamacare Abortion Lies of the Year.”
Despite the Obama administration’s assertions that the health-care law is compatible with federal prohibitions against abortion funding, Smith said the Affordable Care Act violates the Hyde Amendment, forces consumers to pay abortion surcharges for their health-insurance coverage, and makes it nearly impossible for people to find out what plans cover abortion.
“Abortion isn’t health care — it kills babies and harms women,” said Smith, who is the co-chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, in a Dec. 30 press release.
Several pro-life organizations have joined with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in raising concerns about the abortion provisions in the health-care law, which began taking effect on Jan. 1.
“Chris Smith is absolutely right. The more we learn about Obamacare, the more we don’t like it,” said Paul Rondeau, executive director of American Life League, a national Catholic pro-life organization.
Rondeau told the Register that the Obama administration’s modus operandi has been to circumvent voters and the U.S. Constitution to accomplish its goals of expanding abortion coverage.
In March 2012, the USCCB said a final rule issued by the Obama administration on the Affordable Care Act requires many health insurers to charge all enrollees for elective abortions. That requirement surprised many people whom the administration had assured by saying the law would not make taxpayers fund abortions.
According to the USCCB analysis, all taxpayers will be forced to subsidize overall health plans that cover elective abortions, contrary to the Hyde Amendment, and that taxpayers will also be forced to pay directly for other people’s abortions.
“No one was told that up front,” Rondeau said.
Not Billed Separately?
“The new law requires premium payers to be assessed a separate abortion surcharge every month to pay for abortions,” Smith said in his prepared statement, which noted that Section 1303 of the Affordable Care Act states every premium payer in an abortion-covering plan will contribute a surcharge to a fund to pay for other people’s abortions.
Smith said former U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska wrote that policy so the surcharge would be billed separately. However, new research published by Susan Muskett with the National Right to Life Committee indicates that insurance carriers are not actually billing the surcharge separately, despite the clear letter of the law, Smith said.
The National Right to Life Committee’s research also indicates that the Nelson Amendment fails to bill the abortion surcharge separately. For example, NRLC says some state-insurance commissioners are advising insurers that their states will not require them to collect the separate payments from enrollees, nor to even issue an itemized bill setting forth the separate costs.
Meanwhile, the USCCB analysis says insurers who cover election abortions may list abortion in their summary of covered benefits, but they do not have to take additional steps to warn enrollees that they are buying a plan with abortions. This provision, the bishops said, makes it difficult, if not impossible, for consumers to try to withhold that part of their premium, since they can never how much of their payment is used for abortion.
“While consumers will be paying an abortion surcharge (something that is not permitted under the Hyde Amendment), they may never know it,” Smith said. “Between the failure to disclose abortion coverage at the outset and the failure to bill the surcharge separately, the consumer is left in the dark, unknowingly paying into an abortion fund.”
Hyde Amendment Concerns
During a joint session of Congress in October 2009, President Barack Obama said that, “under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortion.” As Congress debated the legislation, Obama signed an executive order to tamp down pro-life Democrats’ calls for an amendment to specifically prohibit abortion coverage in the Affordable Care Act. The executive order said “the act maintains current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to newly created health-insurance exchanges.”
However, as pro-life advocates and lawmakers noted, the president can revoke an executive order at will. Also, despite its language, Smith said the executive order undermines the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion. The Hyde Amendment also prohibits federal funding for any insurance plan that includes abortion except in the case of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
However, several health-insurance plans on the health-care law’s exchanges subsidize abortion on demand. Preliminary data suggests that every insurance plan on the Connecticut health-care exchanges will pay for abortion on demand, said Smith, adding that 103 of the 112 insurance plans for congressional members and staff include elective abortion coverage.
“It is clear that there are numerous Obamacare plans that include elective abortion and billions of taxpayers’ dollars will now be handed out as credits to buy abortion-covering health insurance — a clear violation of the Hyde Amendment’s fundamental principle of restricting funds to abortion-subsidizing health-insurance plans,” Smith said.
To counter the abortion coverage, at least 24 states have passed laws to prohibit health-insurance plans from covering abortions on their exchanges. Eight of those states ban abortion coverage in both public and private plans, while some of those state bans allow insurance companies to offer separate supplemental coverage for abortion.
For people in states that allow insurers to cover abortions, finding out what plans cover those procedures has been difficult. Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, indicated during an Oct. 30 hearing before the Energy and Commerce Committee that she would disclose that information. However, on Dec. 11, Sebelius appeared to backtrack when she told the House Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee that the information should be available online.
“Unfortunately, [Sebelius’] assurances ring hollow,” Smith said. “Specifically, numerous summaries of benefits and coverage documents which can be viewed through www.Healthcare.gov do not indicate whether or not abortion is covered.”
On Dec. 13, the Charlotte Lozier Institute issued a report saying that abortion coverage information is not available for many plans in New Jersey, Texas, Wyoming and Alaska. Clear statements of elective abortion coverage, the Charlotte Lozier Institute said, are not the rule, and “if anything, they are the exception.”
Rondeau of the American Life League said more Americans would realize the health-care law’s negative impacts if all its provisions were rolled out at once, rather than the administration’s staggered delays.
“Let the American people see what the entire law is about before the 2014 elections,” Rondeau said.
Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act
Smith said he has introduced the Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act, a bill that requires information regarding either inclusion or exclusion of abortion coverage as well as the existence of an abortion surcharge to be prominently displayed. Smith has also introduced the No Taxpayers Funding for Abortion Act to stop the Affordable Care Act’s “massive expansion” of abortion-on-demand facilitation and funding.
“We live in an age of ultrasound imaging — the ultimate window to the womb and the child who resides there,” Smith said. “We are in the midst of a fetal health-care revolution, an explosion of benign interventions designed to diagnose, treat and cure the youngest patients. Obamacare’s abortion mandate violates federal law and makes taxpayers complicit in the culture of death. This is not reform.”
Register correspondent Brian Fraga writes from Fall River, Massachusetts.