Barth Bracy has devoted his life to his Catholic faith. He spent 15 years in the Philippines as a missionary, where he met his wife, Abbie.
The two got married in 2002. Barth and Abbie Bracy reside in Dayville, Conn., with their four young sons, whom she home-schools throughout the year. Bracy commutes 45 minutes to his job as executive director of Rhode Island Right to Life. He also is a deacon at a local church in Connecticut.
Bracy, 47, says he never imagined the family would have to go without health insurance—or that he would find himself in a high-stakes lawsuit against the federal government.
‘If You Like Your Plan, You Can Keep It’
On Oct. 25, 2013, Barth received a letter from his insurance company, Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield, saying the family’s health insurance didn’t comply with the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. On Dec. 1, 2014, the plan would be canceled.
“We were one of those families who liked their plan and wanted to keep it,” Bracy told The Daily Signal in a telephone interview.
The cost to the Bracy family was $494.31 a month, he says, and it wasn’t one of those “junk plans,” either.
Skeptical, Bracy began navigating his state’s online Obamacare insurance exchange, Access Health CT. He considered himself an “educated user” of the system because he had been involved in fighting aspects of Obamacare since 2009 with Rhode Island Right to Life.
His first priority after receiving his Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield cancellation notice was to find a plan that didn’t subsidize abortion.
“God is the center of our individual and family lives,” he says of the family’s pro-life views.
In a 2009 speech, President Obama promised Congress and the American people: “[U]nder our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.”
>>> Read More: Conservatives Decry Obama’s Hidden Abortion Coverage
Since a number of plans on the Obamacare exchanges received federal tax credits, it stood to reason that finding one that didn’t pay for elective abortions would be possible.
Given Bracy’s knowledge of what would become the Affordable Care Act, however, he could have predicted the president’s statement would turn out to be a sham. In fact, last fall he did just that.
‘Worse Than We Imagined’
In an Oct. 13 press release for Rhode Island Right to Life, Bracy warned against what he called Obamacare’s “mandatory abortion fees.”He was referring to a surcharge of at least one dollar each month that insurers offering abortion coverage must collect from enrollees.
The “fact-checking” media organization Politifact judged Bracy’s statement to be only “half true.”
Last week, though, a report by the Government Accountability Office confirmed Bracy’s account, revealing that more than 1,000 Obamacare plans cover abortion while remaining eligible for tax subsidies.
The GAO report also found that some insurers failed to collect from policyholders a required separate payment for abortion coverage. That requirement was the government’s attempt to keep tax dollars, as Obama promised, from directly funding abortion.
“Every individual or family who enrolls in an Obamacare plan that covers abortion will pay at least one dollar every month that can fund elective abortions,” says Sarah Torre, a policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation who closely follows the issue of Obamacare and abortion.
“Nobody saw that coming,” Bracy says. “It’s become even worse than we imagined.”
It’s the evil genius of the way this law was created that you have people who would be horrified to find out they’re writing $12 checks every year that go to funding [other] people’s abortions—and that’s exactly what the government is doing.
‘Incompetence’ or ‘Malice’?
Another problem highlighted by the GAO report—which also studied New Jersey, Vermont and Hawaii—is the lack of transparency on abortion subsidies in insurance plans.
Of 18 insurance issuers interviewed, 11 admitted that customers shopping for plans on state exchanges “do not have access to such information.” A consumer might be able to call an information number or dig through a website to find the answer, the insurers said, but there is no guarantee the consumer will find out before buying a plan.
Bracy, who considers himself better informed than the average citizen regarding abortion coverage in Obamacare, gives this account of how difficult finding the information can be:
First, he sifted through the “”Summary of Benefits and Coverage” in all three of Connecticut’s health insurance options. There, he didn’t come across a single piece of information pertaining to abortion coverage or subsidies.
Bracy had to open “Detailed Plan” documents, more than 100 pages long, to find the information he was looking for. He then discovered that Connecticut options don’t include a single plan without a subsidy for elective abortion, as highlighted in the GAO report.
In the “Detailed Plan” documents he examined, Bracy says, not once was the term “abortion” used. Instead, buried deep in the files, he found information on “termination of pregnancy.”
“Whether it was incompetence or malice, I can’t say … but Obamacare almost didn’t pass because of the abortion issue—everyone in the country knows that,” he says.
This is clearly something [the Obama administration] was aware is a great interest to an awful lot of people, so it’s one of the things they [insurers] obviously should have made very clear in the ‘Summary of Benefits and Coverage.’
Torre, the Heritage analyst, agrees that Obamacare isn’t transparent about the abortion fee:
Obamacare regulations only allow insurers to disclose the existence and amount of the abortion surcharge at the time of enrollment. Those shopping for an abortion-free health plan will have a very difficult time figuring out which plans on the exchange include coverage of elective abortion before they enroll.
Many pro-life Americans call this Obamacare’s “secrecy clause,” and they accuse the government of making insurers hide the ball when it comes to coverage of life-terminating procedures.
Not for a Million Dollars
Technically, the Bracys have three options:
- Buy a plan on Connecticut’s Obamacare exchange and pay only $2 or $3 per month after tax credits, but be forced to subsidize abortions. For anyone devoted to the pro-life cause, Barth says, it’s “simply not an option” even if the government offered “one million dollars.”
- Purchase a plan on the free market with coverage comparable to their current, $494-a-month Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance and pay upward of $900 per month, which Bracy says is “completely unaffordable for our family.”
- Go uninsured and pay the government fine.
“Even if it’s only one dollar that I have to pay, I just cannot take a dollar out of my pocket and give it to somebody knowing it’s going to go to pay for somebody else’s abortions,” he says, adding:
That makes me directly complicit in that abortion. I can’t do that, even if I weren’t a pro-life or Catholic leader, my conscience says you cannot participate in the taking of a human life, period–no matter what.
Bracy isn’t only contemplating the risks in going uninsured. Without health insurance for the family as of Dec. 1, he worries that he and his wife could be accused of being bad parents.
Suck It Up—or Sue
Some people tell Bracy to just suck it up. “It’s temporary,” they say.
By 2017, Obamacare requires Connecticut and the rest of the states to offer at least one “multi-state plan” that doesn’t subsidize abortion.
But that doesn’t provide much comfort, Bracy says:
What if that plan doesn’t work for you? The government is treating pro-lifers as second-class citizens who don’t deserve access to good health care.
In May, Bracy filed suit against the federal and state governments in U.S. District Court in Connecticut, citing the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, its equivalent in state law and the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.
He argues that those laws prohibit the government from enforcing Obamacare’s individual mandate requiring the Bracys to buy insurance—or withholding benefits under the Affordable Care Act because the Bracys decline to pay the abortion surcharge levied against everyone who picks a plan on the Connecticut exchange.
In the same suit, the Bracys brought a free speech challenge to the “secrecy” provisions of Obamacare that forbid insurers from telling customers upfront whether plans cover abortion and how much they are paying for others’ abortions.
Every chance he gets, Bracy asks others to join him in the fight against the abortion fee, especially encouraging fellow pro-lifers to “not back down.”
“In those five states—Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Vermont and Hawaii—the reality is every person with an Obamacare exchange plan is paying for abortions,” Casey Mattox, a lawyer at Alliance Defending Freedom who represents the Bracys, says in an interview with The Daily Signal.
It isn’t disclosed in your bill, but the insurer is charging you a separate fee and is required by the law to use that amount solely to pay for others’ elective abortions. Knowing Americans would be outraged by this, Obamacare’s architects required the insurers to hide this truth in your bill. But as terrible as taxpayer-funded abortions are, for citizens in those states the reality is even worse.
‘Ignorance Is Bliss’
“I suppose ignorance is bliss,” Bracy says of the millions of pro-life Americans who potentially don’t know that through their health insurance plans, they’re paying for abortions.
“What’s tragic is that people don’t know because they’re being lied to,” he says.
Mattox says the government is required to issue a response to the Bracys by Oct. 13, just before Obamacare open enrollment for 2015 begins in November.
“It is our hope that the state and federal governments will stop punishing pro-life families for their refusal to pay for others’ abortions and give them an opportunity to obtain health insurance without compromising their convictions,” the family’s lawyer says, adding:
The Bracys will not surrender their conscience even if it means going without health insurance. Hopefully the federal and state officials comply with their obligations under the law, and it does not come to that.
LifeNews Note: Kelsey Harkness writes for The Daily Signal, where this column originally appeared.