An experienced healthcare policy researcher observes that the Obamacare “replacement” plan put forward by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) not only would allow for taxpayer funding of abortion, but would actually expand its funding over that provided in the original Obamacare law.
Writing at The Federalist, Christopher Jacobs, founder and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Juniper Research Group, says the Patient Freedom Act (PFA) sends a “strikingly different message” from that demonstrated in House Republicans’ recent approval of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017.
A former senior policy analyst in the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Health Policy Studies, and a senior policy analyst with the Joint Economic Committee’s Senate Republican staff, Jacobs writes the PFA, “would go further than Obamacare in funding abortion coverage.”
“Whereas Obamacare provides federal funding for insurance plans that cover abortion, the Patient Freedom Act would allow for direct federal funding of abortion procedures themselves,” he adds.
Jacobs explains that the PFA offers states three options regarding how to handle health care. States would be able to either keep Obamacare as passed with its individual and employer mandates as well as its subsidies; create a new, more “complicated” program in which states would receive most of the same funding as under Obamacare that would be directly sent to individual Americans through new Roth Health Savings Accounts (HSAs); or totally rid their states of Obamacare and all the federal funds that go with it.
Noting that the bill’s text favors the second option of the new Roth HSAs, Jacobs observes, “If a state chooses the second option, most of the provisions of Title I of Obamacare would not apply. That repeal would include the individual and employer mandates, and some (but not all) of the federal benefit mandates included in Obamacare.”
Jacobs continues that for states that choose the second or third options, the PFA would repeal the section of Obamacare (1303) that restricts some federal funding of abortions and allows states to ban coverage for abortions on the exchanges. The section also requires health insurance companies to set up a “wall” to ensure federal taxpayer funds for subsidies are separate from other funds that are used to pay for abortions.
Pointing out that national pro-life groups have criticized Section 1303 of Obamacare as “an accounting sham because money is fungible,” Jacobs also notes that many insurers have not bothered to observe the “wall” between funding sources at all.
“However, Obamacare made an attempt, albeit a largely meaningless one, to prevent taxpayer funding of abortion,” Jacobs says. “By contrast, the PFA makes no such attempt to do so.”
Because the PFA itself includes no restrictions on taxpayer funding of abortion, it’s critical to examine the source of funding for the new state-based allotments. While the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding of abortion, it does so only for appropriations provided through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ spending bill. Other agencies covered through other spending bills must explicitly prohibit funding of abortion coverage, otherwise federal funding of abortion would be permitted—and potentially required by courts as a necessary medical service.
The PFA, says Jacobs still relies on Obamacare’s “existing funding stream” and would allow “subsidies in the form of refundable tax credits—to finance the allotments to individuals’ Roth HSAs.”
“Because that funding stream goes through the Department of the Treasury via the Internal Revenue Code, the Hyde Amendment restrictions do not apply—meaning that federal funds can, and will, finance abortion coverage,” he writes.
“I don’t know whether leaving out the Hyde protections was a deliberate policy choice by the Senate offices, or an unintentional omission by them, but even the latter scenario shows a lack of concern that federal funds should not finance abortions – particularly surprising given the way Obamacare gives billions in federal funds to plans that cover abortion,” Jacobs tells Breitbart News.
Breitbart News reached out to the offices of both Sens. Collins and Cassidy several times, but no person was available to speak to confirm or deny taxpayer funding of abortions in their healthcare plan.
“I haven’t seen anyone refuting my analysis that the bill funds abortions, and the offices in question haven’t written me to dispute it,” Jacobs says.
In addition to Collins and Cassidy, the bill now includes Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) as co-sponsors.
According to the Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein, the PFA should be dubbed the “Obamacare Forever Act,” and represents a “bipartisan” effort to tweak Obamacare yet still allow President Obama’s signature law to be cemented into America’s healthcare policy.
“[T]he Cassidy-Collins bill would leave residents in many states trapped in Obamacare, which all states would still be forced to pay for — and their only alternative is to adopt a system while still under onerous rules imposed from Washington,” Klein concludes.