A new rule announced by the Trump administration on Friday will take aim at an Obama-era policy that pro-lifers say allowed insurers to hide charges for abortion inside government-subsidized health insurance plans.
The “abortion surcharge,” as some call the result of an Obama administration rule regarding Obamacare billing, has been a target of pro-life lawmakers and activists for some time. On Friday, the administration announced a final rule addressing the issue.
So what is the abortion surcharge?
A July letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar signed by 25 senators and 103 House members explained that the health insurance law as written requires that federally subsidized health plans that cover elective abortions should charge a separated minimum $1 “abortion surcharge” every month and deposit it into a separate account for abortion procedures. The dual intent was to prevent taxpayer money from directly covering abortion procedures while creating transparency about which insurance plans cover abortions.
“Unfortunately, in an exercise of executive overreach, the Obama Administration undermined Section 1303 by interpreting ‘separate’ to mean ‘together’ in subsequent regulatory guidance,” the lawmakers wrote. “Blatantly disregarding congressional authority, the guidance stated that simply sending a single notice about the surcharge or itemizing the abortion surcharge on monthly bills would satisfy the requirement under Section 1303.”
“Pursuant to the law,” a Center for Medicare news release from Friday explains, “this rule will ensure that taxpayers do not contribute funds to pay for coverage of abortion services for which funding isn’t allowed by law, and will alert consumers that their health plan covers abortion services, allowing them to make fully informed decisions about their coverage.”
In a statement about the new final rule, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that the “separate billing requirement fulfills Congress’ intent and reflects President Trump’s strong commitment to preventing taxpayer funding of abortion coverage.”
Pro-life lawmakers and activists celebrated the rule’s announcement as a big win.
“I’m thankful for yet another pro-life win in the books with the new rule to end the hidden abortion surcharge in Obamacare plans,” Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C. — who joined in an October letter about the surcharge — told Blaze Media about the new policy. “President Trump and Vice President Pence have been fighting for the unborn since the day they took office, and I applaud the entire Trump Administration team for their commitment to pro-life policies in America.”
“This is a victory for American taxpayers as we ensure their hard earned dollars aren’t unknowingly used to pay for another person’s abortion,” Rep. Michael Cloud, R-Texas, said in a statement Blaze Media. “This is another big step by President Trump and his administration to protect life and the rights of conscience of American taxpayers.”
“This new rule will ensure compliance so that ‘separate’ no longer means ‘together’ when it comes to funding abortion,” pro-life Susan B. Anthony president Marjorie Dannenfelser stated in response to the finalized rule. “President Trump has delivered an important victory for American consumers and taxpayers, the majority of whom oppose using tax dollars to pay for abortions.”
In contrast to the pro-life celebrations over the change, Planned Parenthood called the change “YET another direct ATTACK at abortion access” and said that it could potentially cause some insurance plans to “drop abortion coverage altogether to avoid these administrative burdens or raise costs.”