White House addresses need to clarify abortion coverage rules

The Obama administration hopes to clarify rules regarding how health insurance exchanges cover elective abortion, reports Kaiser Health News.

When the Affordable Care Act was first passed in 2010, the law stated that health plans that offer abortion coverage--aside from the cases of rape, incest or a life-threatening altercation to the woman--must isolate funds and bill for the abortion service separately, notes KHN.

During the ACA's first year, 23 states passed laws that prohibit plans offered on the exchange from covering abortion. In five of the 27 remaining states, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report cited by KHN, every plan covered abortions. And of these five, many did not adhere to the law's billing requirement.

"There are no federal funds being used for abortions except, as the law states, cases of rape or incest or questions of the life of the mother," Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said last month.

On Friday, HHS proposed regulation to make abortion coverage rules clearer for health plans in 2016.

While the regulation states how insurers can collect separate payments for abortion services, a larger issue remains: Consumers are left to figure out which plans include abortion coverage, and which do not.

Believing this information should be presented in a more straightforward manner, the Lozier Institute, a Charlotte-based anti-abortion research group, contacts insurers and their members to relay which plans do and do not cover the services, according to KHN.

The need for disclosure began last year, when House members introduced a bill that would require insurers to disclose whether they cover abortion procedures in plans sold through the exchanges, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

For more:
- here's the KHN piece
- here's the proposed regulation (.pdf)