WASHINGTON — Fiscal conservatives are not the only ones who are upset about the rollout of President Obama’s new health-care law and seeking to change it. Social conservatives too have joined the fray.
At a press conference last week, a bipartisan pro-life group of House members said the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, violates a 36-year-old federal ban on taxpayer subsidies for most abortions.
The lawmakers directed most of their fire at a provision in the law they said “bur(ies) in fine print” the coverage of abortion services in health plans.
“Transparency in government is always good, but when it comes to health-insurance plans, people should know exactly what’s in them,” Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) said in an interview last week.
Lamborn said he supports the Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act, a bill that would seek to undo a so-called “marketing secrecy clause” in the 2010 health-care law. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) is the prime sponsor of the measure.
The proposal would require that health-care plans mention if abortion services are included or excluded and the existence of any abortion surcharges in all marketing and advertising materials. It would broaden the existing language of Section 1303 of the bill, which requires that a health plan “provide a notice to enrollees, only as part of the summary of benefits and coverage explanation, at the time of enrollment, of such coverage.”
Abortion-rights supporters did not comment on the bill. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) co-chair of the pro-choice caucus in Congress, turned down two requests to discuss the proposal last week. A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services also declined to discuss the bill.
Blocking Obama’s signature health-care law has been the rallying cry of Republicans during the 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government. While no socially conservative proposals are part of the negotiations over reopening the government, social conservatives might succeed in getting full abortion disclosure without going through Congress.
Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) suggested he would ask the Obama administration to rule that the current language in the health-care law as it relates to abortion disclosure should be broadened. “No one can make the argument that we have transparency,” he said, adding that the provision violates an executive order Obama issued in March 2010 that restates the federal prohibition on federal funding of abortion except in limited circumstances.
DeGette and other pro-choice supporters succeeded in getting around the prohibitions of the Hyde Amendment by arguing that private health exchanges in states that allowed abortion services to be included represented a private use of money. They decried a proposal by then-Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) for “telling women they cannot use their own private money to purchase a health-insurance plant that covers a full range of reproductive services.”
The political effect of DeGette’s compromise is a blue-state, red-state split on federal funding of abortion in health care plans. In liberal “blue” states such as Connecticut and Rhode Island, all insurance plans pay for abortion services. In 21 other states such as Wisconsin and Louisiana, private insurance plans under Obamacare are not allowed to cover abortion.
A plea for transparency might be able to transcend partisan differences over abortion, however. Abortion supporters and opponents would know if a health-care plan covered abortion services or not.
Lamborn said he expects the Republican-controlled House would pass Smith’s proposal, but it faces a tougher slog in the Democratic-controlled Senate.