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Taxpayers Are Paying the Tab for Obamacare’s Elective Abortions



Susan E. Wills - published on 09/17/14

GAO report confirms the USCCB and pro-life groups were right.

A September 15 report from the impartial federal watchdog, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), confirms what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and pro-life groups have warned from Day One: the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) authorizes funding and subsidizing elective abortions out of tax revenues. Want your money back? Good luck.

You may recall that in the shenanigans surrounding passage of Obamacare, Congressional sponsors refused to amend the Act to include a provision similar to the Hyde Amendment, which since 1976 has prohibited the funding of elective abortions in Medicaid and other programs funded through Health and Human Services (HHS) appropriations.

By insisting that language restricting abortion coverage was “unnecessary,” Congressional sponsors flouted the will of a majority of Americans. Polls leading up to the passage of Obamacare—a December 2009 Quinnipiac poll, for example—found that 72% of Americans opposed “allowing abortions to be paid for by public funds under a health care reform bill.”

To quell this high level of opposition, the White House produced a phony, last-minute Executive Order (as if an Executive Order could trump the plain language of the statute). No one was taken in by the ploy, especially because the only groups who insisted that Obamacare would prohibit taxpayer funding of elective abortions were abortion industry groups, their supporters in Congress and the Executive branch and a few hopelessly confused law professors.  

It is now abundantly clear that Obamacare permits abortion funding in three ways:

Community health centers: Obamacare (as amended) authorized and appropriated $9.5 billion for services at Community Health Centers without any abortion-related restrictions on the use of these funds. Funds could be used for abortion equipment, abortion-provider salaries and for abortion procedures. The sole abortion limitation in the healthcare act (Sec. 1303) relates only to tax credits or cost-sharing reductions for qualified health plans.

Health plan subsidies: Obamacare subsidizes health plans that cover even elective abortions through tax revenues (for qualified individuals) because, it bears repeating, the only thing Sec. 1303 limits is the direct use of a federal tax credit specifically to fund abortion coverage. No matter where you live, your tax dollars will be used to pay for elective abortion coverage in 28 states.

Direct premium payments to cover abortions by fellow enrollees: If you are enrolled in a Qualified Health (QH) Plan that covers elective abortion (and chances are you don’t know if it does), the Obamacare regulations originally required insurers to segregate funds that would pay for the abortions of plan enrollees by charging every enrollee separately for this coverage (whether or not you could or would ever have an abortion). The “abortion surcharge,” as it was called, would have to be paid by a separate check or separate mouse click each month in at least the minimum amount of $1. Naturally, this cumbersome accounting gimmick was jettisoned by the Administration. Its substitute (a separate line item on each premium invoice) has apparently been ignored in practice, and with impunity.

Of the 18 issuers of QH plans interviewed by the GAO, not one bothered to collect a separate premium for the plan’s abortion surcharge and not one bothered to list the abortion surcharge on premium invoices, leaving enrollees unaware that a portion of their premiums are going directly to pay for others’ abortions.

Almost 2/3rds of issuers interviewed by GAO stated that information about the plan’s abortion coverage was not accessible to enrollees and 6 others said that information was available “in some fashion” to enrollees prior to enrollment. In the fine print of covered services as “reproductive health care,” perhaps?

According to the GAO, there are 1,036 qualified health (QH) plans in 28 states that are now covering abortion on demand, for any reason or none. Wherever you live, your tax dollars are paying for subsidies given to enrollees in those plans. In California, for example, 1.25 million people are getting healthcare subsidies paid for by taxpayers living in all fifty states.

In eight states, all or nearly all of the QH plans cover elective abortion: 100% of QH plans in New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island and Hawaii include abortion on demand. The percentage of plans covering abortion on demand in Massachusetts is 98%, New York, 95% and California, 96%. Many plans in another 20 states also cover abortion on demand.

So much for “choice.”

The USCCB Reaction

Cardinal Seán O’Malley, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, responded to the September 15 release of the GAO report with a strongly-worded statement. The Cardinal noted that,

“The only adequate solution to this problem is the one the Catholic bishops advocated from the beginning of the health care reform debate in Congress: Bring the Affordable Care Act into compliance with the Hyde amendment and every other federal law on abortion funding, by excluding elective abortions from health plans subsidized with federal funds. At a minimum, Congress should not delay in enacting a law to require full disclosure of abortion coverage and abortion premiums to Americans purchasing health plans.”

In earlier letters to Congress, the Cardinal endorsed the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 7) and the “Abortion Insurance Full-Disclosure Act” (H.R. 3279) which would rectify the current situation where pro-life taxpayers are unwittingly forced to pay for others’ abortions. The press release announcing Cardinal O’Malley’s statement contains links to resources on these bills. Do let you Members of Congress know that you support a legislative ban on elective abortion funding and how you feel about having paid for other people’s abortions this year.

Susan E. Willsis spirituality editor of Aleteia’s English-language edition.

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