Members of Congress and their staffs will be able to buy health plans that pay for abortions, even though the premiums are paid for largely by taxpayer money, the Office of Personnel Management ruled Monday.
Lawmakers and their aides are being required to ditch their government-sponsored plans and buy insurance on state-based health exchanges, though unlike most people on the exchanges, the staffers and members will still have most of the cost of their premiums paid for by their employer — in this case, taxpayers.
Federal law generally prevents taxpayer money being used to pay for abortions, but OPM said that the health care plans offered through the exchange were private. The agency also said it will make sure the money is segregated so that the portion that pays for abortions comes out of the employees’ own contribution, which amounts to about a quarter of the premiums.
“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,” OPM said in its ruling.
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. “All women, no matter where they work, deserve health care coverage that can meet their individual health care needs.”
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