However, those who drop their plans and delay too long in buying a new one could see a penalty of up to 30 percent of their new plan’s premiums for having a gap in coverage. Critics charge that this could unfairly penalize those who choose to go without health insurance, or even deter them from buying a new plan when they get sick.
The bill would also double the amount that could be contributed to health savings accounts, or tax-free accounts to save money for out-of-pocket medical expenses.
At a Tuesday press conference introducing the plan, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said that the bill is only the first phase of a three-part program that includes deregulation of the health care market and additional reforms, giving consumers the “freedom to buy” the health coverage they want.
Pro-life groups have hinged their support of a replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act on whether any taxpayer subsidies or tax credits would fund abortions.
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, told EWTN News Nightly’s Jason Calvi that he expected Senate staffers to work to ensure no abortion coverage is funded in the law through subsidies or tax credits.
In addition, the proposed bill would defund Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest performer of abortions, for one year, around $400 million.
Abortion funding has long been a controversial subject in health care. The Hyde Amendment – a policy passed yearly by Congress as part of appropriations bills – prohibits federal funding of abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at stake.
This policy “must extend to any relevant health care plan,” the bishops insisted on Wednesday. No federal subsidies for health insurance coverage – or even tax credits for coverage – should pay for any “health care plans that cover abortion,” they stated.
While President Barack Obama signed an executive order stating that an enforcement mechanism must be found to ensure no abortion funding under the Affordable Care Act, a 2014 report by the Government Accountability Office found that this might not have been the case.
The report found that 15 insurers and one state exchange were not itemizing abortion coverage in health plans offered on the exchanges and did not indicate that such abortion coverage was billed separately. Thus, federal subsidies could very well have paid for abortion coverage.
Also, in five states, all the health plans offered on the exchanges covered abortions, offering no alternative to those conscientiously objecting to paying for abortion coverage in their plans.
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The U.S. bishops’ conference had originally opposed the Affordable Care Act because they believed the executive order would not be enough to prevent abortion funding. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, then-president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, had stated of the bill that “there is compelling evidence that it would expand the role of the federal government in funding and facilitating abortion and plans that cover abortion.”
Changes in coverage
Universal access to health care, including for those immigrants left out of coverage under the Affordable Care Act, must also be part of new legislation, the bishops insisted.
“Any modification of the Medicaid system as part of health care reform should prioritize improvement and access to quality care over cost savings,” they added.
Some of the biggest changes under the proposed bill would be to federal subsidies, ending the expansion of federal Medicaid grants to states after several years, and determining Medicaid grants to states based on their numbers of Medicaid patients.
The Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion had helped those caring for elderly parents and drug addicts, argued Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), ranking member on the Ways and Means Committee. This would be cut in the new health care bill.