A coalition of six states and the District of Columbia filed suit against the Trump administration in federal court last week, asserting that a new HHS billing requirement under Obamacare violates state sovereignty and creates unnecessary “barriers to abortion coverage.”
In December, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a new rule requiring insurance plans within Obamacare’s state-based exchanges to issue separate bills to enrollees – one for the monthly premium and one for abortion coverage, if applicable.
The Trump administration said the new rule “aligns federal regulations with the statutory requirements” of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List in December said the new rule enforces the plain language of the law and blocks Obamacare’s “hidden abortion surcharge.”
But the six states and the District of Columbia say the new rule exceeds what is allowed under the text of the law. The six states are California, New York, Maine, Maryland, Oregon and Vermont. The lawsuit says the Trump administration “issued an onerous and unnecessary regulation designed to restrict women’s constitutionally protected reproductive rights by creating barriers to abortion coverage.”
“This new rule is just another Trump Administration attack on women and reproductive rights,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “We have a long history of protecting women’s access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare, including abortion.”
A federal law known as the Hyde Amendment prohibits taxpayer-funded abortion except in the cases of rape, incest and to save the mother’s life. The Trump administration estimates that 18 states currently have insurers that offer coverage of abortion services prohibited under the Hyde Amendment.
Supporters of the new HHS rule point to section 1303 of the Affordable Care Act, which requires insurance companies that offer plans covering abortion to “collect from each enrollee in the plan (without regard to the enrollee’s age, sex, or family status) a separate payment” for abortion services. Further, the money must be deposited into “a separate account that consists solely of such payments and that is used exclusively to pay for” the services.
The attorneys general, though, assert in their lawsuit that section 1303 “grants significant latitude to state and private issuers.”
The Trump administration’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said in a December statement that the rule “will ensure that taxpayers do not contribute funds to pay for coverage of abortion services” and will alert consumers that their health plan covers abortion services, allowing them to make fully informed decisions about their coverage.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, asserted that the Obama administration “allowed insurers to ignore the law by burying the abortion surcharge in plan documents instead of collecting it separately.” She applauded the new Trump administration rule.
“This new rule will ensure compliance so that ‘separate’ no longer means ‘together’ when it comes to funding abortion,” she said. “President Trump has delivered an important victory for American consumers and taxpayers, the majority of whom oppose using tax dollars to pay for abortions.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Vladimir Cetinski
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.