Finalize the rule stopping ObamaCare's hidden abortion surcharge

Finalize the rule stopping ObamaCare's hidden abortion surcharge
© Stefani Reynolds

It’s time again for Americans shopping for health insurance on ObamaCare exchanges to sign up or renew their coverage. As was the case last year, too many Americans are at risk of signing up for plans that contain a hidden abortion surcharge for abortion on demand, unless the Trump administration acts now. 

ObamaCare was the largest expansion of taxpayer-funded abortion since Roe v. Wade, dramatically increasing abortion funding by allowing subsidies for plans that cover elective abortion.

This goes against the consensus of the strong majority of Americans who oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, as well as the very letter of the Hyde Amendment, longstanding federal policy that has saved more than two million lives by preventing taxpayer dollars from being used for this purpose.


The Obama administration convinced “pro-life” Democrats in Congress to go along with this scheme by proposing a Trojan horse compromise: the promise of an executive order restating an accounting gimmick embedded in ObamaCare that required a separate abortion surcharge every month for customers whose plan included abortion coverage.

Then, once the ink was dry, the Obama administration unilaterally interpreted “separate” to mean “together” and permitted insurers to bury the surcharge in their plan documents instead of collecting separate payments transparently, as the law requires.

In practical terms, this means that in 2018, taxpayer-funded ObamaCare plans in 24 states and the District of Columbia covered abortion on demand. In 10 of those states, more than 85 percent of ObamaCare plans covered abortion on demand, including seven states where every single ObamaCare plan for individuals and families covered elective abortion. It’s much harder, if not impossible to quantify the human cost of innocent lives snuffed out that otherwise might have been spared, and the complicity ObamaCare puts on unsuspecting taxpayers.

It’s up to Congress to come up with a long-term fix for ObamaCare’s radical abortion expansion. At a minimum, though, insurers should have to follow the law as written.

To that end, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma proposed a rule in November 2018 to correctly interpret statutory language and require the abortion surcharge to be collected separately, but that was almost a year ago.

Then this past summer, 25 senators and 103 members of the House led by Reps. Michael Cloud (R-Texas) and Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) sent a letter urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to quickly finalize the new rule.

HHS and CMS have now done everything they can, and the rule rests with Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), who needs to finalize it.

Time-after-time, President TrumpDonald TrumpNorth Korea conducts potential 6th missile test in a month Kemp leading Perdue in Georgia gubernatorial primary: poll US ranked 27th least corrupt country in the world MORE and his administration have shown decisive pro-life leadership, rolling back harmful Obama policies and making tremendous progress for unborn children and their mothers.

Remedying this outrageous holdover from the Obama era is an important next step the administration can take to keep that progress going. Millions of Americans are about to pour onto the marketplace to choose their health plan for the coming year. The sooner this rule is finalized, the sooner insurers will comply and stop keeping customers in the dark about the abortion surcharge.

Finalizing this rule would be a victory for consumers and the American taxpayer. With the start of open enrollment upon us, it couldn’t be more urgent for Vought and the OMB to deliver. We call on them to follow through on the good work the Trump administration started and get this rule across the finish line without delay.

Marjorie Dannenfelser is president of the national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List.