January 10, 2019
If anyone has a full mailbox, it's HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Republicans and Democrats are keeping the agency chief in reading material with a set of dueling letters over a new rule that would finally bring some transparency to the taxpayer-funded abortion debate. And that's exactly what the far-Left doesn't want!
On Tuesday, HHS moved one step closer to finalizing a rule that wouldn't change the fact that Obamacare customers are billed for abortion, but it would change how they're billed. If it sounds complicated, that's because it is. Under Barack Obama, the government did everything it could to keep consumers in the dark about their plans. They even got insurers involved in hiding the fact that there was even an abortion surcharge in the first place! Because of that secrecy, most Americans who were shopping for a plan on the exchange had to wait until they got their statement of benefits until they knew if the policy violated their beliefs. And even then, they might not even know how much the abortion surcharge was!
Thanks to Secretary Azar, the Trump administration is putting the finishing touches on a rule that would separate out the abortion surcharge in the billing process. As former Senator Ben Nelson (R-Nebr.) explained, "You have to write two checks: one for the basic policy and one for the additional coverage for abortion." Until Congress can overturn Obamacare, HHS wants to give citizens as much information as possible. And under this president that means insurers have no choice but to come clean about the abortion surcharge.
In two letters to Secretary Azar, led by Freshmen Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and Rep. Michael Cloud (R-Texas), Republicans praise HHS for moving forward with the regulation. "Congress clearly required a distinct payment and the current regulations instead allow the abortion surcharge to be hidden within the broader premium. This proposed rule provides important and long overdue protections." Of course, they point out, the real goal is overturning Obamacare and never forcing taxpayers to cover abortion again.
Democrats, meanwhile, led by Senator Patty Murray (Wash.) are horrified at the thought of shining a light on the abortion surcharge and complain, in their own letter to HHS, that this rule is "intended to make it harder for women to access abortion care and to prevent insurers from offering abortion coverage." They insist that the separate billing will confuse Americans and increase the cost of selling the plans. But in the end, that's just cover for their real fear -- and our hope -- which is that more people will opt out of abortion-covering plans to begin with!
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.