Arina Grossu is Director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Daily Signal on December 15, 2016.
Open enrollment for Obamacare plans is well under way, having started Nov. 1 and running through Jan. 31, 2017. Not only is Obamacare proving unaffordable to millions of Americans—it is proving unconscionable for pro-life Americans who don’t want to pay for health care plans that cover abortion on demand or lack transparency about such coverage.
For the third year in a row, the Family Research Council and the Charlotte Lozier Institute have partnered to find out exclusive information about abortion coverage in Obamacare plans.
Our findings for the 2017 plans show that, as was the case in 2016, a total of 25 states have opted out of covering elective abortion on the Obamacare exchange. Elective abortion refers to abortion on demand and for any reason.
The 25 remaining states (and the District of Columbia) permit elective abortion coverage in Obamacare plans.
Although it is commendable that there are 25 states that have opted out of elective abortion coverage in their Obamacare plans, it should be noted that taxpayers even in those pro-life states are still paying federal taxes that are then used to pay for coverage that includes elective abortion in other states.
In 2017, an estimated 57 percent of the Obamacare exchange plans in states that have not opted out of elective abortion coverage will cover elective abortion. This amounts to around 891 plans.
In addition, four new states in 2017 will only offer plans that cover abortion, bringing the total to six locales that lack even a single pro-life plan: Alaska, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Washington.
By contrast, in 2016, Hawaii and Vermont were the only two states offering no pro-life plans.
This is a concerning development. In five additional states, 85 percent or more of exchange plans will cover abortion on demand in 2017. Those states include California, New York, Maryland, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.
In three other states, the majority of exchange plans will cover abortion on demand in 2017. Those states are Oregon, Rhode Island, and Montana.
People in the above states (which are 14 in total) who do not want an abortion-covering health care plan are left with either no pro-life options, or very limited ones. So much for choice.
Another development in 2017 is that there will be 11 fewer states participating in the Multi-State Plan Program than there were in 2016. Multi-state plans are plans that are approved and operated on the Obamacare exchange by the Office of Personnel Management in various states.
According to Obamacare law, by 2017, the Office of Personnel Management is supposed to enter into contract with issuers, which would offer multi-state plans in all 50 states by 2017, with at least one pro-life multi-state plan available in each state.
The reality in 2017 is that less than half of the states (only 22) offer multi-state plans—a far cry from the targeted goal in the law, since numerous issuers have discontinued offering multi-state plans.
One positive development is that in 2017, none of the 203 existing multi-state plans will cover elective abortion.
In years past, our research revealed that information about abortion coverage was not transparent. Currently, plans that are being offered on the Obamacare exchanges are required to be transparent about their abortion coverage in their summaries of benefits and coverage.
However, our 2017 research found that there were between one and five insurance companies in 13 states not in compliance with the legal requirements to disclose their abortion coverage: Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Montana, New Hampshire, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, Texas, and West Virginia.
We still experienced long call wait times. HealthSource RI, for example, kept us on hold for close to one and a half hours. In some other states, plans were not published by Nov. 1, as they were supposed to be. We also experienced dead links, error messages, and website crashes.
It is no wonder that states are passing the burden of operating Obamacare exchanges back to the federal government because of the expense and hassle. In fact, more than three-quarters of all states currently outsource their health exchanges to the federally facilitated marketplace on HealthCare.gov instead of facilitating their own state-run exchanges.
The incoming Trump administration and the new Congress will have their work cut out as they prepare to repeal and replace Obamacare and address its biggest problems. Our report provides three key takeaways for lawmakers.
First, Obamacare is failing millions of Americans who are looking for affordable health care. Second, it is failing millions of pro-life Americans who do not want their taxes subsidizing insurance that covers the brutal killing of innocent unborn babies.
This project continues to reveal the falsehood of President Barack Obama’s statement that Obamacare does not violate the long-standing principle of the Hyde Amendment, which bars subsidies for health insurance that covers elective abortion. It does violate that principle, and the majority of Americans do not want to subsidize abortion.
And third, companies that are not in compliance with abortion transparency regulations need to be brought into compliance as soon as possible.
One thing is for sure: Americans want lower premiums and deductibles, a transparent and hassle-free experience, abortion-free plans for themselves and their families, and not to subsidize abortion in their plans or through their tax dollars.
The American people are ready for the unified pro-life government to deliver on its promises regarding Obamacare in 2017.