Anna Higgins

Editor's Note: This column was co-authored by Elizabeth Morrison.

As the Family Research Council (FRC) discovered while reviewing healthcare plans in the D.C. health exchange, it is almost impossible for consumers to get accurate information regarding which plans cover elective abortion. The Maryland Health Exchange is turning out to be no different.

There are 27 states that allow abortion coverage to be included in healthcare plans on the state exchanges. Due to the abortion secrecy clause in the Affordable Care Act, health care plans on the exchanges do not have to disclose until the time of enrollment whether a purchased plan covers elective abortion.

As a native Marylander, FRC’s Elizabeth Morrison, co-author of this piece, set out to discover if she could accurately find information on which plans under the Maryland exchange covered elective abortion. Numerous phone calls to the Maryland exchange, follow-up conversations with supervisors and reviewing content on the website revealed that Maryland’s health exchange employees do not know or understand the ACA’s exchange rules and how the law is to be applied regarding abortion coverage.

She first visited the Maryland Health Exchange (MHE) website. She asked an MHE representative if elective abortion was covered in the exchange. The Maryland representative, who did not know the answer, asked her supervisor who explained that elective abortion is only an essential benefit if the plan a person applies for covers “contraceptive care.” That answer is particularly alarming because the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires all plans to cover FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices. Thus, by default, if that answer were correct, elective abortion would be covered in all plans offered under the Maryland exchange, a violation of the law because the ACA requires that at least one Multi-State Plan (MSP) must be pro-life. The representative then informed Elizabeth that she would first need to apply for the health insurance plan before she could discover whether or not it covered elective abortion. This would mean that Elizabeth would have no way of discovering which plans would violate her most fundamentally held beliefs before actually applying for them.

On a subsequent call to MHE a few days later, Elizabeth spoke to a different representative who told her elective abortion was covered under “family planning,” and that benefits change depending on the insurance company. Under the law, however, there is a list of required benefits, and elective abortion is expressly excluded from that list. Thus, it seems that among exchange representatives there is no consistent knowledge of what the law requires or which plans cover elective abortion.

Anna Higgins

Anna Higgins, J.D., is director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.