Rep. Chris Smith introduces bill to force insurers to reveal details of abortion coverage
The co-chairman of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus this week introduced legislation intended to help Americans find out whether a healthcare plan covers abortion or not.
New Jersey Republican Congressman Christopher Smith introduced the Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2013 in response to concerns about unwittingly signing up for a plan that would cover abortion.
“With the exchanges of the ‘Affordable Care Act’ (AKA ‘Obamacare’) activated this month, it has become evident that it is nearly impossible for individuals to try to determine which exchange plans on their state exchange, if any, exclude abortion,” said an Oct. 9 press release from Smith’s office.
And that’s no “glitch,” like the problems many people had accessing websites where they could sign up for healthcare plans at the beginning of October. According to an official of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is coming out in support of Smith’s bill, the confusion is actually written into the Affordable Care Act.
“We identified this problem when the law was first passed,” said Richard Doerflinger, USCCB Associate Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. “Not only will many of the plans on the state exchanges cover elective abortions and receive federal subsidies, the insurers are actually instructed by the law not to reveal in any helpful way whether they have abortion in them or not.”
In addition to the confusion over finding abortion-free healthcare plans, the fact that many plans covering elective abortion receive federal subsidies violates the Hyde Amendment. “Taxpayer money under the guise of federal subsidies will be paying for insurance that covers elective abortion,” said Illinois Congressman Dan Lipinski, the Democratic co-chairman of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, at a press conference announcing the bill, which is cosponsored by 70 other House members.
In addition, the ACA “requires premium payers to be assessed an abortion surcharge every month to pay for abortions,” Smith said at the press conference.
Insurers are “actually told to hide this – by the statute itself,” Doerflinger said in a telephone interview. If people knew about the surcharge, he said, they likely would withhold payment.
“If they tell them to write two separate checks, one for everything else and one for abortion, and said, ‘Here’s the amount for abortion,’ I think a lot of people would refuse to write the second check,” he said. “They don’t want to give them the opportunity.”
Polling conducted by the USCCB showed that 70% of Americans – 71% of women – do not want abortion in their healthcare plans.
Consumers in 23 states will have abortion-free plans because those states have passed laws to take elective abortion out of all plans. But in the rest of the union, the outlook is mixed.
In Connecticut and Rhode Island, Doerflinger said, there don’t seem to be any plans that exclude abortion coverage. “In other states, the law says the federal government will approve two or more multi-state plans that get offered across the country, ultimately in all 50 states,” Doerflinger said. “They’ve approved one so far, the Blue Cross Blue Shield multi-state plan. If they follow the letter of the law it seems to us that all these Blue Cross Blue Shield multi-state plans should exclude abortion. We haven’t been able to verify that yet because nobody will tell you.”
Said Doerflinger, “This was a law that was supposed to bring new transparency and bring more empowerment to the consumer, but it’s doing the opposite on this issue.”
Smith said that the inauguration of the healthcare insurance exchanges Oct. 1 also revealed that many plans will include abortion on demand, including late term abortions.
Aleteia contacted Naral Pro-Choice America for comment, but a phone call and email were not returned by deadline.
Introduction of Smith’s bill, which has 70 co-sponsors in the House, comes a week after a report by the Charlotte Lozier Institute found that taxpayers could be footing the bill for upwards of 111,500 abortions annually.