Abortion and the Obamacare Exchanges: Still Not What the Doctor Ordered

Arina Grossu is Director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council. This article was co-written with Chuck Donovan at Susan B. Anthony List Education Fund. This article appeared in Townhall.com on February 3, 2015.

Americans seeking health care coverage on the Obamacare exchange system have two weeks left in the 2015 open enrollment season. For individuals and families seeking to avoid purchasing coverage of elective abortion, the process has been – and continues to be – tricky.

Indeed, none of the troubles besetting the Affordable Care Act has been more emblematic than its massive imposition on consumer conscience. As the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) and Family Research Council (FRC) research teams have confirmed, it is nearly impossible for pro-life consumers to identify and access health care plans that do not trespass upon deeply held beliefs about the value of all human life.

The groups’ joint project, ObamacareAbortion.com, sheds light on elective abortion coverage in the 2015 Obamacare plans and allows consumers to make a more informed choice.

Just how bad is the problem to begin with? Last fall the Government Accountability Office (GAO), responding to requests from the House Republican leadership when the Obama Administration continued to stonewall, completed its review of the exchanges and their transparency on abortion. What GAO found was not pretty.

A total of 1,036 insurance plans offered on the exchanges, each eligible for massive tax subsidies, included coverage of elective abortion. Also among GAO’s findings: only six of 18 insurance companies contacted indicated they provide information about the scope of abortion coverage to subscribers before they enroll.

The GAO report put to rest any false notion that Obamacare subsidies do not fund abortion coverage. Indeed
in 2014, the status of elective abortion coverage on the ACA exchanges was anything but transparent to the millions of Americans who were choosing, or were forced by cancellation of their previous plan, to join the government exchange. The opportunity for subscribers to sift through their options and make a conscientious decision was limited if not impossible.

GAO concluded its report without recommendations to fix the transparency issue, blandly noting that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had promised “to help ensure that stakeholders understand the laws and regulations” governing abortion coverage. So, now that 2015 enrollment is nearing the finish line, has the situation improved? Sadly not.

ObamacareAbortion.com is an attempt to do what the Administration has not been willing or able to do for the 2015 enrollment period. That is, to help Americans find out about abortion coverage in Obamacare plans and expose the great difficulty in obtaining this information.

Keep in mind that federal funding for elective abortion was the most salient issue as the fate of the ACA was hanging in the balance in early 2010, right up to the day of its passage. The issue clearly matters to millions of Americans directly and to the strong majority who oppose tax-subsidized abortion.

Our findings:

At least four of the five states in 2014 that offered no plans on their exchange without elective abortion coverage continue to deny subscribers a pro-life option. The state of Connecticut, possibly influenced by Bracy v. Burwell, has introduced two Multi-State Plans (MSPs) that exclude elective abortion. Four states continue without a single pro-life option: Hawaii, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

In nine states, 90 percent or more of the available plans cover elective abortion: California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

In the vast majority of cases where a plan covers elective abortion in 2015, or is likely to (given 2014 data), information confirming this coverage is not readily available. This leaves potential subscribers to guess at coverage based on plan history or to attempt to contact the insurer by phone.

Contacting the insurers by phone, a completely ineffectual process in 2014, remains a daunting prospect, with conflicting results, in 2015. For example, in New York, Wellcare offered two of our researchers differing accounts of its plans and abortion coverage. Wellcare’s website on November 15, linked to directly from the New York exchange for its Summary of Benefits and Coverage, yielded only a blank page with the cheerful advisory, “Coming Soon!”

In brief, the Obamacare exchange appears to be just as useless on conscience issues in 2015 as it was in 2014. Despite billions of tax dollars invested in consultants and website development and repeated promises to improve, federal health insurance planning is nontransparent, hostile to consumer comparison shopping, and indifferent to sanctity of human life concerns. The nation can and must do better.