The Virginia Society for Human Life was cheered by the General Assembly’s passage of a measure that will bar insurers who participate in a new federally run exchange in Virginia from covering most abortions.
The action -- which was proposed by Gov. Bob McDonnell -- only allows exchange policies to cover abortions in cases when the mother’s life is in danger, or the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest.
Shortly after the April 3 vote, the society issued a statement saying it was "extremely pleased that the members of the General Assembly have taken the important step to protect the taxpayers of Virginia from being forced to pay for abortions in insurance plans under the newly created federal health care exchanges."
We wondered whether Virginia taxpayers really were on the verge of being "forced to pay for abortion," and were spared from that requirement by McDonnell’s amendment. So we took a look.
The claim is centered on the requirements of Obamacare, which calls for statewide health insurance exchanges starting next year that will compete for the business of people who don’t have coverage through their employers. The idea is that it will allow individuals to get favorable rates paid by people in large group plans. Those who cannot afford insurance will get a federal subsidy to help them join an exchange.
Virginia lawmakers originally had anticipated creating a state-run exchange, and in 2011 passed a bill banning most abortions from being covered in the program. But late last year, McDonnell announced Virginia would not create an exchange, a move that by default will leave the state with a federally run system. Lawmakers passed the amendment this year to guarantee that most abortions in Virginia would not be covered by the federal exchange.
Did excluding abortion coverage spare taxpayers from having to pay for it?
We asked Olivia Gans Turner, the president for the Virginia Society for Human Life, to explain her group’s claim. She pointed to a section of the Obamacare law that allows a state to prohibit any plan within its borders from covering abortions except in the cases when a woman’s life is in danger or instances of rape or incest -- limited circumstances that have long been covered under federal law.
That provision makes it clear that "the only way for a state to not pay for abortions under insurance plans is to actually enact a law providing such a prohibition," Turner said.
So Turner notes, as we have, that Obamacare gives states flexibility on whether to ban abortion coverage in exchanges.
But whatever course states chose, there is no threat that public funds would be used for most abortions. That’s because Obamacare mandates a funding mechanism that will segregate premium payments for abortions from the federal subsidies some will receive to help cover the cost of care on the exchange.
That system requires anyone who chooses to enroll in a plan covering abortion to make two payments. The first will go into an account for all non-abortion coverage in the plan. The second payment -- of at least $1 a month -- will go into a pool used only for abortion services, according to a July 9, 2012, report by the Congressional Research Service.
The Virginia Society for Human Life said a recently passed an amendment banning insurers participating in a state exchange from covering most abortions protected "the taxpayers of Virginia from being forced to pay for abortions."
The statement ignores the fact that if abortion services had been allowed, insurers would have had to charge separate premium payments for such coverage and segregate the money from all other premiums. That ensures the payments for abortions would come out of policy holders’ pockets -- not public funds.
We rate the claim False.