Religion Dispatches reports on a lawsuit filed by a Catholic couple from Connecticut on the grounds that the Affordable Care Act forces them to pay an “abortion fee” as part of the insurance plan they got through the ACA’s health care exchange. There is no such fee.
A Catholic couple from Connecticut has filed suit against what it says is an “abortion fee mandate” contained in the Affordable Care Act. Barth and Abbie Bracy claim they are being forced to pay a $1 fee for abortion coverage to obtain insurance through Connecticut’s health exchange and that such payment violates their religious freedom as abortion opponents. But the “abortion fee” they claim to be paying is an illusion—the result of the Catholic bishops’ own objections to abortion coverage under the ACA.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops lost a heated battle to ban private insurers who are participating in exchanges from providing abortion coverage beyond the Hyde amendment limitations of rape, incest and life endangerment. But the bishops were successful in forcing the creation of a cumbersome methodology designed to ensure that no money from federally funded insurance subsidies would go toward abortions.
Apparently the bishops were hoping that ACA enrollees would have to write a separate check for abortion coverage so they’d be freaked out by having to write “for abortion” on the memo line. Instead, the methodology worked out by the Department of Health and Human Services requires insurers to segregate the premiums on their end, setting aside a small percentage of the premiums in a separate account to pay for the estimated cost of abortion claims, which, it should be noted, would include abortions for health reasons, emergency abortions in the case of catastrophic pregnancy loss, or abortions for fetal deformities, all of which are expensive, hospital-based procedures.
The Catholic bishops then turned around and asserted that this segregation methodology that they forced was an “additional payment” for “elective abortions for anyone in the plan.” They even suggested that insurers would prefer to pay for abortions rather than the cost of childbirth or health insurance for children. Their favorite waterboy, Rep. Chris Smith, tried to drum up some outrage on the right about the “abortion surcharge” back in 2012 but didn’t have much success.
Now the surcharge is back as an “abortion fee.” Writing in America last month, USCCB lobbyist Richard Doerflinger warned that health plans “must require each and every enrollee to pay a special premium solely for elective abortions… a common impression that enrollees will write a ‘separate check’ for abortion, which pro-life dissenters might try refusing to sign, is apparently false,” which the bishops have known since 2012.
The amazing thing, as the article notes, is that this couple and their family pay a total of $2.63 a month for their health insurance because of the subsidies they qualify for. They should be thrilled about that. Instead, they’re using right wing talking points to file a frivolous lawsuit over it.