By Sarah Torre
The Heritage Foundation
WASHINGTON, D.C. —
Obamacare was billed as an affordable, easy system of obtaining health insurance, where Americans could simply pick health plans that best fit their family’s needs. But the resulting health care law, characterized by rising costs and onerous government mandates, is looking more and more like a maze that’s maddeningly difficult to traverse.
So complex is the system that few consumers may realize the law breaks a longstanding truce in the culture wars: That federal funds shouldn’t flow to abortion coverage.
For decades, Americans have agreed that — whatever one personally thinks about the controversial procedure — Congress shouldn’t entangle tax dollars in providing abortions. Policies prohibiting federal funding for elective abortion or abortion coverage have been enacted almost every year since the mid-1970s.
Polls show a majority of Americans consistently agrees with such policies. Yet, when a divided Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, it failed to apply those longstanding prohibitions to the massive law, popularly known as Obamacare.
The Obamacare insurance exchanges that entwine tax dollars and private dollars in covering abortion rest on the law’s foundation of inescapable mandates. Under Obamacare, the government mandates what benefits insurance companies must offer, employers must provide and individuals must purchase.
Taxpayers now will foot the bill for federal subsidies for the purchase of health plans on the exchanges that went live online Oct. 1, and some of those plans could cover elective abortion.
This flood of new funding could significantly increase the number of abortions covered by taxpayer-subsidized plans. According to analysis by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, more than 18,000 additional abortion procedures could be paid for each year.
That’s not all. One of the darker corners of the Obamacare maze is a hidden mandate that could force some Americans to pay directly for coverage of elective abortions.
Individuals enrolled in one of the federally subsidized exchange plans that cover abortion will be forced to pay a surcharge of at least $12 per year — and possibly much more — out of their own pockets.
Worse, many individuals and families who otherwise would object to paying for abortion coverage may not even be aware of the additional charge. Obamacare regulations only allow insurers to disclose the existence and amount of the abortion surcharge at the time of enrollment. That warning may be as little as a single sentence in a voluminous document.
And who is charged with helping Americans through the complex world of Obamacare insurance exchanges? Answer: Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.
The government is giving more than $600,000 to three Planned Parenthood affiliates to act as “navigators.” Along with other groups, they’re tasked with helping Americans sign up for insurance on the federally facilitated exchanges.
Many states are following suit. The District of Columbia, California and Vermont announced grants totaling more than $1 million to local Planned Parenthood affiliates for promoting insurance exchanges for those jurisdictions.
Families and individuals seeking to avoid plans that cover abortion will find little comfort in the guidance of an organization that performs more than 330,000 abortions a year — while reporting net assets topping $1 billion.
But we really shouldn’t be surprised at this bewildering system, where hidden premiums and restricted consumer choice are further muddled at the direction of special interest groups. Obamacare’s capacity to confuse stems from the law’s power to control.
Americans, told that their consciences are of no consequence, are left with few tools to scale the high walls of confusing regulations built by unelected bureaucrats in search of health care that meets their family’s needs and aligns with their values.
Congress should bulldoze this labyrinth and move forward with real health care reform. Americans deserve a health care system that increases access, decreases costs and allows individuals and families to choose health care without subsidizing life-ending procedures.
SARAH TORRE is a policy analyst in the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation. Readers may write to the author in care of The Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue N.E., Washington, D.C., 20002; Web site: www.heritage.org. Information about Heritage’s funding may be found at h http://www.heritage.org/about/reports.cfm.