- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2014

Decrying the lack of “transparency” about abortion coverage in health care plans, pro-life groups are asking consumers to visit a new, privately operated website to see which insurance plans cover abortion, which do not, and which are “unknown” on the issue.

The new website, ObamacareAbortion.com, is intended to “do what the Obama administration has not been willing or able to do,” said representatives of the Family Research Council and Charlotte Lozier Institute.

Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, praised the effort, saying the administration’s handling of the abortion issue in the Affordable Care Act has been “unconscionable,” and the new website should be a helpful tool for consumers who don’t want to pay for other people’s abortions.

“Abortion is not health care — it dismembers and chemically poisons defenseless unborn children and hurts women,” Mr. Smith told a press conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

An Health and Human Services official said Thursday that “nothing has changed” from federal law, which says “no federal funds, including administrative funds, are permitted to cover abortions or administer plans that cover abortions, except in the case of rape, incest, or when the life of the woman is endangered.”

Regarding payments for abortion coverage, the official added that issuers are required “to collect separate payments from consumers with health insurance plans that cover abortion services for which the use of federal funds are prohibited. It does not specify a method that issuers must use to comply with the separate payment requirement.”

SEE ALSO: Pro-choice activists sue to stop Tennessee abortion amendment

Arina Grossu, director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity, said “it’s not right” that some health insurers in Texas and Rhode Island won’t speak clearly about their coverage of elective abortions, even when directly asked about it.

However, if consumers want answers, they can now visit the website and get as much current information as researchers can acquire, said Genevieve Plaster, a researcher with Charlotte Lozier Institute.

Ms. Plaster said they have been exploring these issues with companies since “day one” of the ACA, and they relied in part on a report issued in September by the Government Accountability Office.

The federal watchdog agency said it found 1,036 health care plans that cover elective abortion and 1,062 plans that do not.

In written comments to the GAO report, HHS Assistant Secretary for Legislation Jim R. Esquea said that states and state insurance commissioners were “primarily” responsible for implementing and enforcing the ACA. However the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) “acknowledges that additional clarification may be needed,” Mr. Esquea wrote.

At Thursday’s event, advocates also urged passage of bills that would require insurance companies and health care exchanges to “prominently display” their coverage of elective abortion, including how surcharges are handled, and codify the Hyde amendment so that ACA would not fund elective abortions.

The Hyde amendment has been applied to federal laws for decades and says that taxpayer money cannot be used to pay for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest and endangerment of the life of the mother, and cannot pay for health insurance plans that cover elective abortions.

The Hyde amendment was applied to the ACA in a 2010 executive order by President Obama. However,in light of actual experiences with the ACA — in which the Hyde amendment appears to be flouted — Mr. Smith and nine colleagues have recently asked Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of CMS, to explain how they are interacting with insurance companies, states and others on this issue.

Meanwhile, Kerri Kupec, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, said Thursday that if consumers find they are being forced to pay for other people’s abortions, they can contact the legal defense firm.

Already, a Roman Catholic family in Connecticut took legal action with the alliance to ensure that they could purchase “abortion-free” health insurance, said Ms. Kupec. That case has been dismissed since Connecticut officials now offer such plans, she said.

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