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How Can We Tell if a Health Plan Covers Abortion? So Far, It’s Not Been Easy

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John Burger - published on 01/22/16

Charlotte Lozier Institute provides online guide

One thing keeping some people from signing up for regular health insurance plans under Obamacare, and leading them to consider Christian health care cost-sharing ministries, is the coverage of morally objectionable practices such as abortion.

Open enrollment for people wishing to sign up for a new plan ends Jan. 31.

The Affordable Care Act is supposed to make transparent which plans cover abortion and which don’t. But a program of the Kaiser Health News broadcast on National Public Radio this week reported that it’s still often hard to tell.

The health law requires insurers to say one way or the other, and they have gotten better about reporting abortion coverage details this year, advocates on both sides agree. But the federal government has yet to put out final instructions on how insurers should handle the issue on their Summary of Benefits and Coverage overview. Lacking specific instructions about what to say and where to say it, many insurers have simply left the information out of the summary, advocates said.

The ACA allows states to decide whether marketplace plans can cover abortion services, NPR said. “Half of states ban abortion coverage to some extent, often limiting it to cases of rape, incest or if the mother’s life is endangered, the standard the federal government uses for coverage in its employees’ plans and for health care programs, such as Medicaid.”

However, even in states that permit insurers to cover abortion beyond the limited exceptions, marketplace plans may not have that benefit.

The Charlotte Lozier Institute, a project of the Susan B. Anthony List, teamed up with the Family Research Council to document abortion coverage, state by state.

“Due to a track record of lack of transparency in Obamacare, Americans are again finding that it is very difficult, or even impossible, to clearly discern whether the Obamacare plan they are considering includes abortion,” the report says. “This is critical information since individuals purchasing plans that include abortion are required to pay a hidden abortion surcharge. Through the surcharge, a portion of each individual’s insurance premium goes into a fund used to pay for abortion on demand.”

Meanwhile, the NPR report continues:

Advocates on both sides of the issue have their eyes on multistate plans. To encourage competition, the health law called for at least two multistate plans to be offered on every state marketplace by 2017, at least one of which excluded abortion services. In subsequent guidance, the Office of Personnel Management, which administers the multistate program, said that multistate insurers had to offer at least one silver- and one gold-level plan that exclude abortion coverage starting this year.

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