Members of Congress and their staff members will be allowed to buy health plans on Obamacare health exchanges that pay for abortions, even though most of their premiums are picked up by the taxpayer, the Office of Personnel Management ruled Monday
Federal law generally prevents taxpayer money being used to pay for abortions, but OPM said healthcare plans offered through the exchanges were private.
The agency also said it will make sure the money is segregated so the portion that pays for abortions comes out of the employees’ own contribution, which amounts to about a quarter of the premiums, The Washington Times reported
"While plans with such coverage may be offered on an Exchange, OPM can and will take appropriate administrative steps to ensure that the cost of any such coverage purchased by a member of Congress or a congressional staffer from a designated [exchange] is accounted for and paid by the individual rather than from the government contribution, consistent with the general prohibition on federal funds being used for this purpose," the ruling stated.
Democrats applauded the ruling, saying it ensures equal access to abortions.
"This decision honors the spirit of the Affordable Care Act, which is significantly improving health care for women," Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Louise Slaughter of New York said in a joint statement, The Times reported.
"All women, no matter where they work, deserve healthcare coverage that can meet their individual healthcare needs."
Pro-life groups and pro-life members of Congress had been concerned about OPM not complying with the Smith Amendment that bans taxpayer-funding of abortions in federal employee health care plans, Life News reported
About 84 members of Congress had sent a letter to OPM acting director Elaine Kaplan earlier this month, Life News reported, pointing out the the Smith amendment — first offered in 1983 by Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ — is annually attached to the Financial Services Appropriations bill and governs activities by OPM employees.
The amendment states no funds may be used to "pay for an abortion, or the administrative expenses in connection with any health plan under the Federal employees health benefits program which provides any benefits or coverage for abortions," Life News reported.
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