According to the Obama Administration’s latest eleventh-hour purported rulemaking, Members of Congress and their staff will be able to enroll in taxpayer-subsidized health plans that include coverage of elective abortions.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released a final rule this week that will allow Members of Congress and their staff to choose health care plans on Obamacare’s state health insurance exchanges while receiving generous federal premium support. It is clear that the OPM does not even have statutory authority to provide premium support for exchange plans. Further, the final rule disregards longstanding, bipartisan federal prohibitions on the use of taxpayer funds to pay for elective abortions.
For decades, Members of Congress and their staff have enrolled in health plans through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), receiving significant federal taxpayer contributions toward premium payments. In almost every year since 1983, Congress has attached an amendment, authored by Representative Chris Smith (R–NJ), to the Financial Services appropriations bill, which funds the FEHBP, prohibiting the expenditure of those federal dollars to pay for elective abortions or health plans that provide coverage of abortions.
Yet because the Obamacare exchanges are governed by a separate law, the OPM claims that FEHBP enrollees are allowed to choose plans that provide abortion services. In fact, Obamacare explicitly forbids Members of Congress and their staff from continuing to participate in the FEHBP, forcing them to instead enroll in health plans on state insurance exchanges with their own funds.
In a last-minute effort to save Members of Congress from having to foot the bill for their own health insurance (a cost that is threatening even Democratic support for Obamacare), the OPM’s rule purportedly allows Members and staff to “continue” receiving generous taxpayer-funded subsidies under the same FEHBP appropriations for plans offered on state exchanges. Yet the FEHBP payment is in no sense portable to non-FEHBP plans in the Obamacare exchanges.
With no prohibition on Members and their staff from enrolling in exchange health plans that include elective abortion coverage and receiving new taxpayer premium support, the OPM rule violates the Smith amendment.
As the OPM rule acknowledges, the Smith amendment prohibits the use of federal funds “to pay for abortions or administrative expenses in connection with health plans under the FEHBP which provides any benefits or coverage for abortions” (emphasis added). The OPM attempts to declare itself free from the Smith amendment because the agency “does not administer the terms of the health benefits plans offered on an Exchange.”
Yet 5 U.S.C. § 8909(b)(1) requires that the FEHBP collect administrative cost contributions for FEHBP plans from Members of Congress and their staff. On the one hand, the Administration claims that the FEHBP is at arm’s length from the Obamacare exchanges, so abortions can be covered without violating the Smith amendment; on the other hand, it claims that the Obamacare exchanges are going to be so good that there is “no doubt” that such plans will qualify for the FEHBP even without OPM approval.
The OPM rule is just one of many ways that Obamacare will allow taxpayer funding of health plans that include coverage of elective abortions. It’s another reason why the health care law is broken from the start and should be stopped.