by Emily Minick
November 1, 2013
DC HealthLink is the first Affordable Care Act (ACA) healthcare exchange to begin being transparent about what plans on the Marketplace, including both private plans and Multi-State plans (MSP), cover elective abortion. Other states in charge of operating their own exchange and the federal government should follow their lead and give the American people real choice in health care by disclosing whether their premiums will cover elective abortions.
FRC’s Anna Higgins documented her attempt to find a pro-life plan on DC’s exchange and her repeated assurance from customer service representatives that elective abortion is an “essential benefit” and thus all plans on the exchange covered it. Shortly after her article’s publication, DC Healthlink contacted Anna saying she had been given wrong information and that there are indeed some plans that do not offer abortion coverage because abortion was not considered an, “essential benefit.” To ensure that other customers are not given wrong information and are able to make an informed choice, DC Healthlink updated the FAQ section of the website to list the pro-life plan providers available to consumers, posted information on their social media outlets, and gave new guidance to customer service representatives.
In DC there are 34 healthcare plans available for individuals on the Marketplace and 4 of those plans are MSP plans. The ACA requires that at least one MSP on the exchange must be pro-life (Section 1303) and come to find out all four of the DC MSPs, offered by Blue Cross Blue Shield, are pro-life. A DC resident would never have known this prior to the clarification posted by DC Healthlink.
Picking a healthcare plan on the Marketplace should not be akin to picking a card from a 52 card deck and hoping for the best. However, due to the abortion secrecy clause located in the ACA, this is precisely what people are being forced to do—- picking a healthcare plan from a stack and hoping that they are not violating their conscience in the process.
Although, according to Nancy Pelosi, we had to pass Obamacare to find out exactly what was in it, now that its law consumers should not be forced to purchase a healthcare plan before they are able to find out what it covers, i.e. elective abortion.
The clarification provided by DC Healthlink, and now available to all DC residents shopping for health care, is indeed a victory. But it still doesn’t address the underlying ACA problem that federal healthcare subsidies will assist in paying for healthcare plans that do cover elective abortion.
Anna’s experience and confusion trying to find out what health care plans do or do not cover abortion is not unique. The ACA abortion secrecy clause is putting a brick wall up in front of pro-life Americans who want to know whether they are purchasing a plan that violates their conscience. We know that residents in Rhode Island and Connecticut do not have any pro-life plans available to them on their respective state exchanges, a violation of their health care choice and a violation of Section 1303 of the ACA.
If a grocery store told customers they had to purchase a box of cereal before they could be given a copy of the list of ingredients or if a car dealership required customers to purchase a car first before they could drive it to test the breaks, these business establishments would undoubtedly lose business.
Shopping for health care should be no different than shopping for any other product in a marketplace. Details matter, fine print matters and transparency matters even more.
Representative Smith’s bill, the “Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act” would address the concerns of pro-life Americans by requiring health care plans to clearly state whether they do or do not cover elective abortion and if they do cover abortion, how much of their premium is for that coverage.
Americans searching for a pro-life healthcare plan should not have to resort to the old picking a card trick and hoping for the best. Real choice in healthcare must include transparency in all healthcare plans.
If there is no transparency we all know the slim probability of picking the right card in a deck, and it’s the American people who will ultimately lose.