The Obama administration said Tuesday it will make sure states and insurers understand the ban on using federal funds for abortion, but pushed back at Republican claims that a government audit report proves pro-life advocates’ worst fears about Obamacare.
No funds are permitted to cover abortions or administer plans that cover the service, as the Affordable Care Act requires issuers to collect a separate payment for coverage of the services, according to an official at the Health and Human Services Department.
A report from the Government Accountability Office late Monday found inconsistencies in how that payment is itemized, if at all, on invoices for people in plans that insure abortion, leading Republicans to conclude that President Obama misled them and that subsidized abortion has become inevitable under the health care law.
The administration said it will make sure administrators are up to speed on the rules.
“[The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] will work with stakeholders, including states and issuers, so they fully understand and comply with the federal law prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortions,” agency spokesman Ben Wakana said.
The agency is expected to issue further guidance on compliance in the coming days. Officials stressed the role of state regulators in making sure issuers comply with the rules and noted the GAO did not make judgments about CMS’s oversight of the federal requirements.
But the outcry among conservatives and Catholic groups intensified Tuesday.
“The Act’s alleged requirements regulating abortion coverage do not exist or are widely ignored,” said Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Many health plans do not inform enrollees about their inclusion of abortion coverage; they do not tell them how much they are being charged for such coverage; and they do not charge a ‘separate payment’ for abortions that is distinct from the premium payment eligible for federal tax subsidies.”
Altogether, more than 1,000 Obamacare plans offer abortion coverage in 28 states that don’t prohibit it, the GAO said, including 95 percent of the plans in California and all of the plans in Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Hawaii and New Jersey.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the government is supposed to ensure at least two multistate plans that don’t include abortion coverage are available in those states. There is a four-year transitional period for the administration to implement multistate plans, so it is not yet a violation of the law at this juncture, according to a congressional aide.
Rep. Christopher H. Smith, a New Jersey Republican who opposes taxpayer funding for abortions, said the sheer number of exchange plans that cover abortion, with taxpayer-subsidized premiums, shows government money is going to pay for the procedure despite Mr. Obama’s insistence that wouldn’t happen.
The president made the pledge so he could secure key votes for his signature health care law.