A new Trump administration rule to protect Americans from funding abortions under Obamacare is one step closer to taking effect.
The required public comment period for new rule ended Tuesday, with pro-life senators and others calling for its enforcement.
In November, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued the new rule directing insurers selling Obamacare plans that cover elective abortion to collect a separate payment from enrollees for that coverage, as required by law. Under the Obama administration, insurers were allowed to collect these payments together in violation of statutory language.
“The Obama Administration’s misinterpretation created a hidden abortion surcharge on many health care plans in exchanges throughout the nation,” said U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, of Mississippi, in a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
Hyde-Smith, joined by 13 fellow senators, urged Azar to move forward with the rule, according to Roll Call.
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In 2018, taxpayer-funded Obamacare insurance plans in 24 states and the District of Columbia were allowed to cover elective abortion with an embedded abortion surcharge. In 10 of those states, more than 85 percent of Obamacare plans covered abortion on demand, including seven states where every single Obamacare plan for individuals and families covered elective abortions.
“The Hyde Amendment protects federal health care dollars from funding elective abortions and insurance plans that include elective abortion. The ACA deviated from this long-standing precedent by creating its own funding stream making taxpayer dollars available to buy abortion-covering health insurance plans in ACA exchanges throughout the country,” the Republican senators wrote.
They also asked HHS to strengthen the rule by clarifying that the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law (Section 1303) was illegal.
“The Obama Administration’s misinterpretation created a hidden abortion surcharge on many health care plans in exchanges throughout the nation,” the letter read. “The meaning of Section 1303 is straightforward and congressional intent is clear. We are concerned that the proposed rule’s analysis fails to adequately acknowledge the illegality of the prior regulation. We ask that the final rule directly addresses this concern.”
In addition to Hyde-Smith, the letter was signed by Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Todd Young (R-Ind.).
Meanwhile, a group of pro-abortion Democrat senators also sent a letter to Azar asking him to withdraw the rule. U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, who led the letter, complained that the rule could reduce abortion access, according to the report.
“The proposed rule is clearly intended to make it harder for women to access abortion care and to prevent insurers from offering abortion coverage,” the letter read. “It is the latest administrative action in a long line of attacks by the Trump-Pence administration to undermine access to … abortion, and to sabotage the health care system.”
Pro-life groups praised the Trump administration for the rule after it was introduced late last year.
“While only comprehensive legislative reform can cure the multiple abortion-expanding components of Obamacare, today’s proposed rule from the Trump Administration sends a strong message that the federal government ought to get out of the business of paying for abortion until Obamacare can be replaced,” said Jennifer Popik, J.D., National Right to Life legislative director.
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser also thanked the administration for protecting Americans’ tax dollars from funding the killing of unborn babies.
“Obamacare was the largest expansion of taxpayer-funded abortion on demand since Roe,” Dannenfelser said. “Then, the Obama administration went even further by allowing insurers to ignore the plain language of the law that said an abortion surcharge had to be collected separately. … Thanks to this trickery, millions of Americans have unwittingly purchased plans without knowing about the hidden abortion surcharge.”