In the release of a final rule regarding healthcare benefits for members of Congress and their staff, the Obama administration’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has indicated that it will get around an amendment that makes it illegal to provide funding for abortions for these individuals through ObamaCare.
OPM filed its final rule on September 30th for the management of health insurance benefits for members of Congress and their staff who will be utilizing the exchanges.
Earlier in the month, 84 members of Congress sent a letter to OPM Acting Director Elaine Kaplan, observing that the Smith amendment (offered in 1983 by Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ) is attached each year to the Financial Services Appropriations bill and governs activities by OPM employees.
Specifically, the Smith amendment states no funds may be used to “pay for an abortion, or the administrative expenses in connection with any health plan under the Federal employees health benefits program (FEHB) which provides any benefits or coverage for abortions.”
According to OPM, it received more than 51,000 requests that health insurance plans available to members of Congress and congressional staff include abortion services. The rule states:
Neither the proposed nor final regulation alters these prohibitions. Under OPM’s final rule, no Federal funds, including administrative funds, will be used to cover abortions or administer plans that cover abortions. Unlike the health plans for which OPM contracts…OPM does not administer the terms of the health benefits plans offered on an Exchange. [Emphasis added] Consequently, while plans with such coverage may be offered on an Exchange, OPM can and will take appropriate administrative steps to ensure that the cost of any such coverage purchased by a Member of Congress or a congressional staffer from a designated SHOP is accounted for and paid by the individual rather than from the Government contribution, consistent with the general prohibition on Federal funds being used for this purpose.
As a result, even though premiums for health insurance plans for members of Congress and their staffs are funded largely by taxpayers, the Obama administration claims plans on the exchanges are private, a situation that creates an exception.
According to the Washington Times, Rep. Smith said OPM is violating a law he wrote in 1983 that prohibits the agency from paying any expenses to administer plans that cover abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s life.
“You can’t break the law, Mr. President, and just issue a final rule as if somehow you’re comporting with the law,” said Smith. “We don’t want to subsidize abortion on demand, and the public is absolutely with us.”
Democrats praised the new rule, claiming it ensures equal access to abortions.
Self-proclaimed Catholic Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) said in a joint statement, “This decision honors the spirit of the Affordable Care Act, which is significantly improving health care for women. All women, no matter where they work, deserve health care coverage that can meet their individual health care needs.”