In a March 16 article appearing in AZCentral, Brandon Kutzler fact checks a statement made by Arizona state senator Nancy Barto on taxpayer-funding of abortion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Last month, Sen. Barto introduced Senate Bill 1318, which would prohibit qualified health insurance policies that are offered through any exchange operating in Arizona from providing coverage for elective abortion. The fact check reviews the following statement that Barto made on February 11, 2015 during a Senate Health Committee meeting: “Taxpayers are on the hook for elective abortions.”
Kutzler rated Barto’s statement, “No stars, unsupported;” however, his review contains major errors and is misleading on several points.
First, Kutzler states that “federal law already prevents insurance companies from using tax credits and subsidies to cover elective abortion.” But does it really? Of course, there’s the special billing arrangement of Obamacare – that all health plan issuers whose marketplace plans cover non-excepted abortion (i.e., those not in cases of rape, incest, or threat to the life of the mother) are required to collect a separate payment for the elective abortion benefit, and keep the money separate from other payments that are eligible for tax subsidies.
But is the provision actually effective in ensuring no taxpayer-funding of abortion? The resounding answer is no. The evidence: a Government Accountability Office report published in September 2014, which found that over a thousand plans covered elective abortion on the marketplace, meaning they are eligible to receive tax subsidies. Additionally, the report discovered that many of the plan issuers were not collecting abortion payments separately.
Though Kutzler acknowledges the GAO report and even quotes that it found practices that “may have been inconsistent with federal requirements,” he ultimately dismisses its importance altogether.
Why? The report “didn’t identify where the potential inconsistencies occurred” and “the GAO did not claim to have found violations.”
The first point is simply incorrect. See page 7. There is a clear account showing that of the 18 issuers GAO contacted, 17 “did not itemize the premium amount associated with non-excepted abortion services coverage on enrollees’ bills nor indicate that they send a separate bill for that premium amount.” Footnote 12 is as clear as day: Issuers are “required” to do just that according to Obamacare and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) regulations.
If this isn’t at the very least “identifying potential inconsistencies,” what is?
Secondly, to say that the GAO didn’t “claim” to have found violations is misleading. The GAO states in Footnote 8 that its report is not “designed to assess…compliance with federal requirements.” So we can expect just that: No assessment, just the facts. As long as readers can put two and two together, we see those “inconsistencies” for what they are – violations to be addressed.
In another deceptive turn of phrase, Kutzler states that the ACA “follow[s] the standard set by the Hyde Amendment,” which is false. The Hyde Amendment is two-pronged in its ban of federal money to fund elective abortion. It bans it in general, but it also bans it for any health plan that covers it.
With Obamacare, this is the first time in American history that federal tax dollars are available to subsidize health insurance plans that cover elective abortions. This is a clear departure from Hyde’s longstanding principle.
Let’s remember that the concerns over abortion funding from Members of Congress were the final considerations holding back passage of Obamacare. Now, two years into Obamacare, we see those exact concerns becoming reality.
That’s why today we have about two dozen states that have taken advantage of the Obamacare provision granting states the right to “opt out” of offering elective abortion plans from their subsidy-eligible marketplaces.
This fact check’s “bottom line”: Senator Barto’s statement accurately highlights Obamacare’s weak “protections” against tax-payer funding of abortion, and her bill – signed into law this week – simply seeks to strengthen what has previously allowed for violations. Kutzler’s review is not a fact check as much as it is a misleading article that ignores relevant information crucial to the issue.
Genevieve Plaster is a research assistant for the Charlotte Lozier Institute.