From Capitol Hill...
Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA) recently questioned Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell regarding her agency’s failure to resolve the ongoing violation of federal conscience laws by California’s Department of Managed Care. Responding to Rep. Pitts’ question, Burwell acknowledged that the administration has not moved fast enough on this issue.
In August of 2014, the California Department of Managed Care (DMHC) issued a directive requiring all plans under the DMHC authority to immediately include coverage for all legal abortions even if the abortion-excluding plan had been previously approved by DMHC.
As a result abortion was immediately inserted into the plans of pro-life churches and schools without their consent.
This action was taken despite the Weldon amendment (to the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations bill) which clearly states that no funds may be made available to a state if the state subjects a health care entity (including insurance plans) to discrimination because it does not provide coverage of abortion.
The only recourse for victims of a violation of the Weldon amendment is to file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services. Complaints were filed in the fall of 2014 by the California Catholic Conference and a group of evangelical churches. An investigation was opened in December of 2014 after pro-life Members of Congress urged the Secretary to do so.
When Burwell appeared before Chairman Pitts in early 2015 she assured him the investigation would be expeditious.
As Chairman Pitts pointed out yesterday, it has been a year since she made that statement and still no corrective action has been taken.
This article titled “Republicans accuse Obama of failing to enforce the law” provides additional information about the mandate and inaction by the administration.
Obama health chief admits abortion law inquiry too slow
By Peter Sullivan - 02/24/16 01:12 PM ESTActually, taking the issues seriously means enforcing the law. But this administration only enforces its ideology.
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell acknowledged Wednesday that the administration has not moved fast enough in investigating an alleged violation of abortion law.
Burwell was questioned at a congressional hearing Wednesday about a California state agency’s decision in 2014 to require all health insurance plans in the state to cover abortions, which Republicans say is a clear violation of the federal Weldon Amendment, protecting insurance plans from discrimination if they decline to cover abortions.
The HHS Office of Civil Rights, which has the responsibility of enforcing the Weldon Amendment, said in December 2014 it had opened an investigation into California’s actions. But the investigation is still not complete.
“I would like for it to have moved more quickly than it has moved, but the investigation is open, and until it is closed, I am not at a place to discuss in terms of what the investigation has yielded or will yield,” Burwell said.
Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) asked her for a time frame on when the investigation will be complete.
“I am not satisfied with our speed. We’ll continue to work on that issue, but I don’t feel I can give you a specific time frame because it is an investigation and I need it to run its ability and its course,” Burwell replied.
A collection of churches and other religious groups have argued that the rule has effectively forced them to violate their religious beliefs by offering insurance plans that cover abortions.
Congressional Republicans have been frustrated by the lack of results.
Pitts pointed to comments Burwell made last February when she was asked about the same issue at a hearing. She said then her department would move “expeditiously.”
Asked Wednesday if the process had in fact been expeditious, Burwell acknowledged that it could have moved faster.
Still, she said, “I take seriously the issues that you’ve raised.”