Secretary Sebelius Questioned about Abortion in the ACA and Planned Parenthood
From a friend on the Hill:
Yesterday Secretary Sebelius testified before the Labor, Health and Human Services Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. During this hearing she was questioned about abortion funding and transparency under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and funding for Planned Parenthood under the ACA.
Abortion Funding and Transparency Issues in the Affordable Care Act
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) departs from the longstanding Hyde amendment which prohibits funding for abortion or plans that include abortion. The ACA bypasses the Hyde amendment and instead provides taxpayer subsidies to insurance plans that include abortion provided a separate abortion surcharge is billed. This accounting arrangement was proposed by then-Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) and was rejected as an accounting gimmick by pro-life leaders. Proponents of the arrangement argued that there would be two separate payments, one for elective abortion and one for everything else. However, as ACA exchanges have been implemented, it has become evident that at least some states are instructing exchange insurance companies that they do not have to charge a separate payment and that they don’t even have to itemize the abortion charge—meaning that a premium payer would have no idea they are paying the abortion surcharge. In addition, it has become evident that it is nearly impossible for exchange users to identify which plans include abortion and which do not when shopping for a plan online. In October of last year, Secretary Sebelius promised Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) that she would provide a list of plans that include elective abortion. Then in December, she backtracked telling Rep. Shimkus that the information is available online.
Yesterday, Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) again asked Sebelius about transparency on Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges. Rep. Harris held up a stack of all of the exchange plans available on the Maryland exchange and explained that none of them indicate whether abortion is covered. The Secretary responded stating that the information should be available, but did not elaborate on any steps she is taking to ensure transparency. Then Rep. Harris also asked the Secretary about the so-called “separate payment” for elective abortion coverage. Again using Maryland as an example, Rep. Harris referred to a bulletin that the Maryland Insurance Commissioner has issued, stating, “issuers are not required to provide enrollees with separate invoices…nor to provide enrollees with itemization on a single invoice…” When Rep. Harris confronted the Secretary with this information, she indicated that she is not familiar the MD bulletin, but that the federal marketplace will follow the law (implying she is not responsible for the MD exchange). Upon further questioning she agreed to take a look at the issue with her staff.
Planned Parenthood Funding in the Affordable Care Act
Recent articles have indicated that Planned Parenthood is rolling out a campaign to enroll people in the ACA plans. The New York Times has even called Planned Parenthood “one of the most aggressive groups” going door-to-door to enroll individuals in ACA plans, and reports indicate that Planned Parenthood affiliates received at least $655,000 in “Navigator” funds to help with enrollment efforts. Based on this information, Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) asked Secretary Sebelius whether the most recent enrollment campaign has received federal funds and asked the Secretary provide a list of grants and contracts awarded to Planned Parenthood using ACA funds. You can see their exchange here.