One of the nation's top abortion lobbying groups is urging the Trump administration to not overburden insurance companies with new Obamacare regulations.
The National Abortion Federation urged the Department of Health and Human Services to reject a proposal that requires insurers in healthcare exchanges to maintain separate funds for abortion coverage and send consumers two bills each month. It argued that segregating funds specifically for abortion coverage "will be burdensome for insurers and confusing for consumers." The group worried that the rule could lead insurers to abandon covering abortion because of the additional effort involved in processing two bill payments.
"Private insurance coverage of abortion is essential for making abortion care affordable for those who seek it, and any efforts to make it more difficult for private insurers to cover abortion care are implicit attempts to impede access to that care," NAF said in a public comment submitted to the agency. "Insurance companies would thus be financially disincentivized from including abortion care amongst their covered benefits."
The agency announced the proposal in November, saying "some of the methods for billing and collection of the separate payment for non-Hyde abortion services noted as permissible … do not adequately reflect what we see as congressional intent that the [insurance] issuer bill separately" for abortion coverage. While the Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of taxpayer funds to pay for elective abortion, several states have allowed insurers involved in Obamacare exchanges to cover the practice. The draft rule requires members of such plans to pay at least $1 a month into a separate fund designed specifically for abortion. They would also have to send two payments to their insurer each month, rather than a single premium payment.
"We intend to make system changes for open enrollment for plan year 2019 to ensure that the minimum premium amount of $1 per enrollee per month is assigned to all enrollments into plans offering coverage of non-Hyde abortion, so that issuers may separately collect this amount directly from consumers for the portion of the total premium attributable to coverage of non-Hyde abortion services," the proposal says. "Issuers would have to send a separate bill and instruct enrollees to send a separate payment."
The agency noted in its announcement that the rule would come with extra costs for insurance companies, pointing to the "separate postage" stamp required to send two letters.
NAF Interim President Katherine Hancock Ragsdale said abortion should be treated on par with other health care treatments. Ragsdale, who is also an Episcopalian minister, said abortion is already too expensive for some women.
"Anti-abortion politicians are attempting to single out abortion care from other forms of health care in an attempt to make it less accessible," she said in a statement. "People want their health insurance to be easier to use and to cover more care, not less."
Pro-life groups have welcomed the rule. Terry Schilling, executive director of the American Principles Project, said it was a "no-brainer" to create the separate billing system to give consumers transparency and to ensure that no taxpayer money is used to pay for abortions.
"It provides more transparency for Americans, better informing them on what they're paying for in their health insurance plans, and it brings the practices of insurance providers more fully into line with the letter of the law in Obamacare—theoretically something the Democrats ought to have no trouble supporting," Schilling said. "This is yet another example demonstrating how radical the Left's views on abortion have become."
The deadline for public comments ended on Jan. 8 and the agency is now in the midst of reviewing them before codifying the final rule.