Somebody who casually glanced at California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s press release on his “Lawsuit Challenging Trump Administration Attack on Healthcare Access and Reproductive Rights” declaring determination to fight “another Trump Administration attack on women,” could be forgiven for thinking the Attorney General just went to Court to stop some kind of executive order the President just issued that would void Roe vs. Wade.
In actuality, the lawsuit concerns a highly-technical Department of Health and Human Services requirement that is entirely congruent with federal law and is not going to prevent or impede women from getting abortions.
The measure simply requires that private insurers send customers two separate bills–one for the part of their insurance that covers abortion and another for everything else.
The reason for the measure is simple enough.
Under the longstanding Hyde Amendment of 1976, federal funds cannot cover abortion. Private insurers under the ObamaCare are federally subsidized; the dual billing technique is intended to ensure the government doesn’t subsidize anybody’s abortion.
But Becerra called the new rule “another Trump Administration attack on women and reproductive rights.”
“We have a long history of protecting women’s access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare, including abortion,” he contended. “We won’t let an unlawful administrative rule change that. And we will defend California’s ability to enact and enforce laws that promote the health of its residents.”
His office said that in December, “HHS issued a final rule requiring qualified health plans participating in the state exchanges like Covered California to send separate bills and collect separate payments of at least one dollar for abortion coverage. This onerous and confusing requirement threatens women’s access to abortion and puts millions at risk of accidentally losing critical health insurance coverage. The lawsuit highlights that the new rule is incompatible with the ACA’s requirement of equitable access to healthcare and disproportionately affects states that are committed to ensuring comprehensive reproductive healthcare.”
Is getting two bills really that onerous?
Does Becerra actually think California residents are so dimwitted they can’t grasp the concept of getting two bills for the same kind of thing? Kind of like if you still have a landline you get one bill from FIOS for that and a separate bill for your cell phone–even though in both cases you are paying for telephone coverage.
When HHS announced the rule it said that: “This rule will ensure that taxpayers do not contribute funds to pay for coverage of abortion services for which funding isn’t allowed by law, and will alert consumers that their health plan covers abortion services, allowing them to make fully informed decisions about their coverage.”
“It contended that the rule was consistent with how the Affordable Care Act was written and “better aligns with [congressional] intent for (participating insurers) to collect two distinct payments, one for the coverage of (relevant) abortion services, and one for coverage of all other services covered.”
But in his lawsuit Becerra claims that the regulation is an assault on the constitutional right to abortion.
Besides the New York State Attorney General, Becerra was joined in the lawsuit by the attorney generals of Maryland, Maine, Oregon, Vermont, and the District of Columbia.
The lawsuit says that the rule infringes upon the right of States “ to prioritize and mandate procreative choice and infringes on the enrollee’s ability to obtain comprehensive health services.”
It also contends that by impeding access to abortion services the regulation violates another section of the Affordable Care Act that requires easy access to medical care. And that the Department of Health and Human Services exceeded its statutory authority by issuing the regulation.
The HHS rule, Becerra argues in his lawsuit, “conflicts with Section 1554, which explicitly prohibits the Secretary of HHS from promulgating ‘any regulation’ that limits access to healthcare services. HHS may not, unless expressly authorized in the ACA, promulgate any regulations that ‘(1) creates any unreasonable barriers to the ability of individuals to obtain appropriate medical care; (2) impedes timely access to health care services; … or (6) limits the availability of health care treatment for the full duration of a patient’s medical needs.’”
Pro-Life Action League executive director Eric Schiedler told the California Globe that the Becerra’s lawsuit was just “posturing” on his part to suck up to “pro-abortion advocates” and get votes and “PAC money.”
He added that the measure Becerra is trying to invalidate is simply a reasonable proviso for the sake of transparency, intended “to keep consumers knowledgeable about what their plan is covering.”
Given that Becerra has now filed more than 60 lawsuits against the Trump Administration maybe legislators should start asking him if these cases are really the best way his office can make use of its limited resources.