HHS should put a stop to ObamaCare's hidden abortion surcharge

HHS should put a stop to ObamaCare's hidden abortion surcharge
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In just a few days, Americans will have the opportunity to purchase ObamaCare insurance plans either through the federal exchange or state-based exchange.

Unfortunately, many consumers who sign up for coverage will end up paying a hidden abortion surcharge as a part of their monthly premium.

As we enter the second open enrollment period of the Trump administration, we encourage the Department of Health and Human Services to issue a new rule shedding daylight on the abortion surcharge and giving consumers the right to refrain from paying it.

In 2018, federally funded ObamaCare insurance plans in 24 states and the District of Columbia are permitted to cover elective abortion with an embedded abortion surcharge. In 10 of those states, more than 85 percent of ObamaCare plans cover abortion on demand, including seven states where every single ObamaCare plan for individuals and families covers elective abortion.

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Consumers purchasing these plans in the future deserve to know that they are paying a required abortion surcharge and taxpayers deserve to have the law requiring separate payment enforced. 

Determining which plans cover abortion in ObamaCare can be difficult. To make it easier for consumers to identify these plans, the Charlotte Lozier Institute and Family Research Council created ObamaCareAbortion.com in 2014. Each year at the beginning of the open enrollment period, researchers scour marketplace and insurance issuer websites to identify which plans cover abortion and post their findings on the website with an interactive map for public use.

Despite this resource, many Americans will purchase plans that cover abortion and never know they are paying a hidden abortion surcharge. By issuing new regulations requiring insurance companies to follow the law and collect the surcharge separately, consumers will become aware of the abortion coverage and surcharge.

How did this surcharge come to be? A hard, but unsuccessful effort to prevent the passage of ObamaCare was based upon abortion-on-demand being included in the subsidized benefits. The forced funding of abortion was a radical departure from the longstanding Hyde Amendment which prevents taxpayer funding for abortion through Medicaid and other federal programs.

In a last-ditch effort to secure the votes for ObamaCare in the Senate, Democrats created an abortion surcharge to confuse the fact it would allow federal subsidies for insurance coverage of elective abortion. According to the statute, ObamaCare plans that cover elective abortion and which receive federal subsidies must collect from enrollees “a separate payment” for elective abortion. Former Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) So to this separation as requiring “two checks.”

Despite the clear intent of the law, the Obama administration interpreted “separate” to mean “together” when they issued guidance on abortion coverage in ObamaCare.

The Obama-era rules are designed to hide the abortion coverage by violating the law requiring a separate payment. The Obama rule instead gave insurers several ways out including allowing the surcharge to simply be buried in voluminous plan documents. None of these options enforce the statutory requirement that plans collect a “separate payment” for elective abortion. 

Federal legislation is necessary to eliminate abortion from ObamaCare, but the Trump administration can restore sanity and transparency by issuing new regulations that follow the plain meaning of the word “separate.” Requiring plans to collect the abortion surcharge separately, as outlined in the law, will ensure that consumers are aware of the abortion surcharge and will provide greater consumer control over their coverage.

Given the pace of federal rule-making, many Americans will find themselves unwillingly or unwittingly paying for elective abortion coverage they do not want in the weeks ahead. The 2010 law will be nearly a decade old by the time this situation is redressed for the next open season that begins in late 2019. But the time to act is now. There is just no excuse for the charade of “separate means together” to continue when Americans by the millions have made clear they want no part of covering the taking of innocent human life in their health plans.

Marjorie Dannenfelser is president of the national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List. Tony Perkins is president of Family Research Council Action.