House bill prohibits exchange plans from covering abortion

House lawmakers passed legislation Tuesday that would make it illegal for individuals to use federal subsidies to buy plans through health insurance exchanges that cover abortion services.

Republicans say the bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), will stop subsidies from being applied to abortion coverage. Although the Hyde amendment already prohibits federal funding for abortion except in certain cases, it hasn't been codified into law, Politico reported.

"Under the Affordable Care Act, massive amounts of public funds in the form of tax credits--$796 billion in direct spending over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office--will pay for insurance plans, many, perhaps most of which will include elective abortion," Smith said Tuesday in a statement. "That massively violates the Hyde amendment."

More than 20 states already have laws that prohibit insurers from including abortion coverage in plans sold through their online marketplace; the bill passed Tuesday would extend that ban to all states.

But Democrats said the legislation is unnecessary because Congress has renewed the Hyde amendment for almost 40 years by including it in spending bills. Plus, they say the bill overreaches by denying tax credits for consumers who are free to choose to buy abortion coverage, reported The Hill's Healthwatch.

"This is propaganda, it's political," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Politico noted. "The Republicans are trying to make people believe their taxpayer dollars are being used to pay for abortions. It's not true."

The White House has issued a veto threat against the legislation, noting the reform law already prohibits federal funds from paying for abortion. Therefore, the bill "would go well beyond these safeguards by interfering with consumers' private healthcare choices," the White House said, according to the Associated Press.

To learn more:
- read the bill (.pdf) and Smith's statement
- check out the Politico article
- see the Associated Press article
- read The Hill's Healthwatch article

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