(CNSNews.com) - Under a regulation issued by the Office of Personnel Management, members of Congress and their staff will be able to use federal subsidies worth up to $11,378 per year to purchase any of the 103 different health insurance plans that expressly cover elective abortions that are now being offered on the Washington, D.C. Obamacare exchange.
Members of Congress and their staff currently face a Dec. 9 deadline for purchasing their 2014 tax-subsidized health insurance plans on that exchange.
The federal subsidy members of Congress and their staff can now use to buy health-insurance plans that cover elective abortions contradicts a vow Obama made in a nationally televised speech to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 9, 2009.
It also contradicts the express purpose of the executive order on abortion funding that Obama promised to issue in March 2010 when the House of Representatives was preparing to take its final vote on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Obama needed to promise to issue that executive order to secure the votes of a group of Democrats led by Rep. Bart Stupak (Mich.), who said they would not vote for Obamacare so long as it funded abortion. Without Obama’s executive order, the bill would not have passed.
“Under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place,” Obama said in his Sept. 9, 2009 speech to Congress.
Six weeks later--in an Oct. 22, 2009 interview with CNSNews.com—Rep. Stupak said he had a group of “about 40 like-minded Democrats” who would block the health-care law unless it included language that incorporated the policy of the Hyde Amendment.
The Hyde Amendment prohibits funding of any health-care plan that includes coverage of abortion. It says: “None of the funds appropriated in this Act, and none of the funds in any trust fund to which funds are appropriated in this Act, shall be expended for health benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion.” The amendment also includes exceptions for abortions done in cases of rape, incest or a threat to life of the mother.
On Nov. 7, 2009, the House voted 240 to 194 to incorporate the policy of the Hyde Amendment into the health-care bill through an amendment that Rep. Stupak sponsored. The Stupak amendment said:
“No funds authorized or appropriated by this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion, except in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, or unless the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.”
The Senate version of the Affordable Care Act did not include the Stupak language incorporating the policy of the Hyde Amendment into Obamacare.
Ultimately, it was the Senate version of the bill which came up for a final vote in the House on March 21, 2010.
To get Stupak and like-minded Democrats to vote for the Senate bill which lacked the Hyde-like language of Stupak's amendment, President Obama promised to issue an executive order extending the Hyde Amendment’s prohibition on federal funding of any plan that included coverage of abortion to plans sold in the Obamacare exchanges.
“Following the recent enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the ‘Act’), it is necessary to establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that federal funds are not used for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered), consistent with a longstanding federal statutory restriction that is commonly known as the Hyde Amendment,” said Obama’s Executive Order 13535.
“The Act maintains current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to the newly created health insurance exchanges,” said the order.
For this statement in Obama's Executive Order 1353 to be true, the administration would have needed to prohibit federal funds--to use the terms of the Hyde Amendment--from being "expended for health benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion.". Or, to use the terms of the Stupak amendment, it would have needed to prohibit federal funds from being "used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion."
Although the actual language of the Patient Affordable Care Act did not extend the Hyde “restrictions to the newly created health insurance exchanges,” Obama, in his executive order, simply declared that the act did so.
On March 21, 2010, when the Senate version of PPACA came up for a final vote in the House, Rep. Stupak went to the floor and engaged in a colloquy with House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman. What this colloquy purportedly clarified is that--along with Obama’s promised executive order—the act the House was about to vote on would indeed incorporate into Obamacare the Hyde Amendment’s prohibition on federal funding for health-insurance plans that include coverage of abortion.
“Throughout the debate in the House, Members on both sides of the abortion issue have maintained that current law should apply,” said Stupak. “Current law with respect to abortion services includes the Hyde amendment. The Hyde amendment and other similar statutes to it have been the law of the land on federal funding of abortion since 1977 and apply to all other health care programs—including SCHIP, Medicare, Medicaid, Indian
Health Service, Veterans Health Care, military health care programs, and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
“The intent behind both this legislation and the executive order the President will sign is to ensure that, as is provided for in the Hyde amendment, that health care reform will maintain a ban on the use of federal funds for abortion services except in the instances of rape, incest, and endangerment of the life of the mother,” said Stupak.
Waxman then said: “If the gentleman will yield to me, that is correct. I agree with the gentleman from Michigan that the intent behind both the legislation and the Executive order is to maintain a ban on federal funds being used for abortion services, as is provided in the Hyde amendment.”
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also included language that required members of the House and Senate and their staff to purchase their health insurance plans in the Obamacare exchanges starting in 2014.
Under the law, individuals purchasing insurance in the exchanges would only qualify for a federal subsidy if their adjusted gross income was less than 400 percent of the poverty level. Given that members of Congress earn annual salaries of $174,000, a married member of Congress (whose spouse earned $0) would need to have at least seven children in order to qualify for a subsidy under current federal poverty guidelines.
A congressional staffer with a spouse and two children whose household income was $95,000 would not qualify for a subsidy because families of four hit the income cap for the subsidy at $94,200.
In September, the Office of Personnel Management, an Executive Branch agency, issued a regulation that alleviated this personal financial problem for members of Congress and their staff. It ruled that that members and staff would buy “Gold” level health insurance plans in the Obamacare exchange set up in the District of Columbia for small businesses (not the exchange set up for individuals).
In other words, OPM decided to treat Congress--which spent $3.5 trillion last year--as a small business.
In the Obamacare small business exchanges, small businesses are allowed to pay an employer contribution toward their workers’ premiums.
Until now, members of Congress and their staff have purchased their insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Programs, which is also used by employees of the executive branch. Under this system, the federal government could pay a subsidy for a family insurance plan that exceeds $11,000 per year.
the lesser of $948.18 per month ($11,378.16 per year) or 75 percent of the total premium for a member of Congress or a congressional staffer.
The OPM regulation said the U.S. Treasury could continue to make these premium payments for members of Congress and their staff when they bought their Gold plans in the D.C. Obamacare small-business exchange. This applied even to members of Congress and staffers who earned more than the 400 percent of poverty cap on federal subsidies that applies to individuals buying health insurance in the Obamacare exchanges.
The D.C. exchange—“D.C. Health Link”—offers 112 different “Gold” insurance plans to small businesses. The website for the exchange says:
“All health plans offered by Kaiser Permanente, United Healthcare, and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield plans that do not include “Multi-State Plan” in their name include coverage for elective abortions.”
That includes 103 of the 112 plans.
The OPM has posted a webpage that shows members of Congress and congressional staffers how much of a federal subsidy they qualify for when buying insurance in the exchange. It indicates that a member Congress earning $174,000 from the taxpayers can get a federal subsidy of as much as $948.18 per month (or $11,378.16 per year) to buy their Obamacare plan.
The current law that funds OPM is governed by the Smith Amendment, which was sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R.-N.J.). That law, Smith pointed out in a statement yesterday, not only prohibits federal funding of abortion through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Programs, but also prohibits the OPM from “engaging in administrative activities in connection with any plan that includes abortion.”
“The Obama Administration is now violating the Smith amendment since OPM has begun to administer a system for Members of Congress and their staff to obtain taxpayer-subsidized insurance coverage that pays for the destruction of innocent unborn children,” said Smith’s statement.
“In the run-up to passage of Obamacare, Americans were repeatedly told and reassured by President Obama himself, including in a speech to a joint session of Congress in October 2009, that ‘under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortion,’” said Smith. “Obama even issued the infamous Executive Order that claimed, ‘the Act maintains current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to newly created health insurance exchanges.”
“Once again we see those promises ring hollow—what the President said simply isn’t true today,” said Smith. “In the most recent example, 103 of the 112 insurance plans that Members of Congress and congressional staff are being directed to include elective abortion coverage.”