Lawmakers call for transparency in insurance plans funding abortion

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Rep. Chris Smith. Public Domain.

More than 100 members of Congress are asking the federal government to issue new regulations ensuring greater transparency in health insurance plans that include abortion.

“Consumers have a right to know” if they are funding abortion coverage, said Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) in an Aug. 6 statement.

“The Trump Administration now has the opportunity to take action and enforce the law to bring transparency to Obamacare’s abortion coverage and the abortion surcharge. No person should have to pay for abortion coverage they don’t want,” he said.

Smith, who co-chairs the bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, was among the signatories of an Aug. 6 letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.

The letter points to Section 1303 of the Affordable Care Act, which mandates that if a qualified health plan covers elective abortions, it must do so by collecting a payment separate from the standard premium, and depositing that payment into a separate account.

However, the signatories of the letter said that current enforcement regulations, dating back to the Obama era, are so permissive as to render the rules meaningless. The regulations allow for health insurers to collect an abortion surcharge without separately identifying it on monthly invoices or collecting it separately.

This makes the surcharge “all but invisible,” the members of Congress said, noting that a Government Accountability Office report in 2014 found that many insurers were ignoring Section 1303’s requirements.

“HHS should issue new regulations that align with the clear meaning and legislative history of Section 1303 of ACA and its requirement for a truly ‘separate payment,’ and provide ample mechanisms for enforcement,” they said.

“The new regulations should also clarify that all qualified health plans that cover elective abortion must provide notice of such coverage to consumers at the time of enrollment.”

Doing so, the signers said, will provide transparency so that consumers do not unwittingly purchase abortion coverage that they do not want.

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