Nearly 130 members of both chambers of Congress say that the so-called "Affordable Care Act" has a loophole that allows Obamacare providers to hide surcharges for elective abortions covered by government health care plans. A group of lawmakers want the Department of Health and Human Services to finalize a regulation to close that loophole.
A letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar signed by 25 senators and 103 House members focused on a proposed change to the implementation of Section 1303 of Obamacare, which deals with the separation of abortion funds, among other "special rules."
Basically, the law as written requires that federally subsidized health plans that covered elective abortions should charge a separated minimum $1 "abortion surcharge" every month and deposit it into a separate account for abortion procedures, the letter explains. The dual intent was to prevent taxpayer money from directly covering abortion procedures while creating transparency via the separate abortion charge.
"Unfortunately, in an exercise of executive overreach, the Obama Administration undermined Section 1303 by interpreting 'separate' to mean 'together' in subsequent regulatory guidance," the lawmakers wrote. "Blatantly disregarding congressional authority, the guidance stated that simply sending a single notice about the surcharge or itemizing the abortion surcharge on monthly bills would satisfy the requirement under Section 1303."
An October op-ed from Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser and Family Research Council Action President Tony Perkins explained that, as of 2018, "federally funded ObamaCare insurance plans in 24 states and the District of Columbia are permitted to cover elective abortion" with the added surcharge.
"By no means is this measure consistent with the principle of the long-standing Hyde Amendment," the letter added, "however, it is important that the administration comply with these minimal requirements with transparency."
As a remedy, the lawmakers pointed to a regulation proposed by the Trump administration last year and called for its "swift implementation."
"The proposed rule is consistent with the clear meaning and congressional intent of Section 1303 and eliminates the hidden abortion surcharge in many ACA plans," Tuesday's letter explained. "While this requirement does not change the fact that the ACA violates the precedent of the long-standing Hyde Amendment through its involvement of tax dollars in subsidies to abortion-covering plans, it is an important step in providing transparency and awareness for enrollees."
"Taxpayer money should never be used to take innocent lives, and Obamacare passed with the promise that taxpayers would not have to subsidize another person's abortion," Rep. Michael Cloud (R-Texas) said in an emailed statement about the letter. "Nevertheless, these hidden abortion surcharges were pushed upon Americans who would have objected had they known."
Full text of the letter can be found here.