On October 29, 2009, the House of Representatives introduced H.R. 3962, Affordable Health Care for America Act. This is the reconciled bill between the competing bills introduced in the House over the summer, including H.R. 3200. Supporters of H.R. 3962 claim that there is a provision that states tax-payer funded abortions will not be allowed according to the bill, so I thought I’d take a closer look to verify their claim. All references to sections are to H.R. 3962 unless otherwise noted.
Section 222 defines what the “Essential Benefits Package” is meant to include. All plans eligible for the Health Insurance Exchange need to meet these minimum services. Unlike H.R. 3200, there is no language H.R. 3962 regarding options for family planning.
Section 321 establishes a Public Health Insurance Option. The public health insurance option is prohibited from providing abortion coverage “for which the expenditure of Federal funds appropriated for the Department of Health and Human Services is not permitted, based on the law as in effect as of the date that is 6 months before the beginning of the plan year involved” [Sec. 222(e)(4)(A)]. However, the public option is allowed to provide abortion coverage “for which the expenditure of Federal funds appropriated for the Department of Health and Human Services is permitted, based on the law as in effect as of the date that is 6 months before the beginning of the plan year involved” [Sec. 222(e)(4)(B)].
In an effort to defend their claim that there will be no tax-payer funded abortion provision in the bill, proponents of the bill state that the restrictions placed on abortion by the Hyde amendment would fall under this definition and thus prevent the public health insurance option from funding abortions. This defense is misleading and doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
Firstly, the Hyde amendment only prevents tax-payer funded abortions specifically through Medicaid and appropriations for the Department of Health and Human Services. It does not address the other potential funding sources for the public health insurance option, such as income tax surcharges and employer penalties for not providing health insurance.
Secondly, the Hyde amendment needs to be renewed every year; so if it is not renewed, then during the next plan year, tax-payer funded abortions can be a part of the public health insurance option.
Finally, this prohibition in H.R. 3962 is placed only on the essential benefits package and does not apply to enhanced or premium benefits packages; thus the public health insurance option can, in fact, provide for tax-payer funding abortions.
For a detailed description of how the Hyde amendment may not apply in this situation, go to the Susan B. Anthony List’s special website called Stop Hyding. Please note that although their website refers to H.R. 3200, the logic and the law are applicable to H.R. 3962 as well.
Aside from the funding issues, as of the time of this writing the only abortion coverage prohibited to the Department of Health and Human Services is partial-birth abortion, which is banned by Federal law. However, if the law changes to allow partial-birth abortions, e.g. if the Freedom of Choice Act is passed as President Obama promised during his 2008 presidential campaign, then tax-payer funded abortions through the public health insurance option would include even these types of abortions.
Do you think it’s right that your tax dollars go to ending human life in the womb? And what about your health insurance provider? Will they be forced to pay for abortions if they morally object to the practice? Will you end up paying for abortions because your premium payments into the health insurance are then used to pay for an abortion that someone else chooses?
H.R. 3962 includes a subsection entitled “Abortion Coverage Prohibited as Part of Minimum Benefits Package” [Sec. 222(e)]. This section prohibits the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Health Benefits Advisory Committee, or the Health Choices Commissioner to mandate that abortion be covered in the essentials benefits package of a qualified health benefits plan [Sec. 222(e)(1)]. The caveat is that the abortion services are described in Sec. 222(e)(4)(A) and (B) which describe abortion coverage for the public health insurance option. As discussed above, the only type of abortion currently banned is partial-birth abortion and the only funding restriction is based on Medicaid payments.
Thus the Health and Human Services Secretary, the Health Benefits Advisory Committee, or the Health Choices Commissioner can, in fact, mandate that your health insurance provider cover abortions in the essential benefits package.
If you don’t want to pay for abortions your tax dollars, it is imperative you contact your representative in Congress today! It is scheduled for a vote by the full House of Representatives later this week. For information on how to contact your representative, see the National Right to Life’s webpage by clicking here.