Wednesday, June 22, 2016

HHS Rules That California Did Not Violate Weldon Amendment

Yesterday the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services (OCR) issued a letter (full text) responding to complaints that the California Department of Managed Health Care violated the Weldon Amendment when it directed several health insurance companies to amend their plan documents to remove coverage limitations and exclusions for elective abortions. Subsequently California granted an exemption to one of the companies to allow it to offer plans that exclude abortion coverage to religious employers. The complaints were filed by churches, a religious organization, a church-run school and employees of a religiously-affiliated university.  In its Findings, OCR said in part:
By its plain terms, the Weldon Amendment's protections extend only to health care entities and not to individuals who are patients of, or institutions or individuals that are insured by, such entities.... Here none of the seven insurers that received the CDMHC letter ... objected to providing coverage for abortions..... As a result, there is no health care entity protected under the statute that has asserted religious or moral objections to abortion and therefore there is no covered entity that has been subject to discrimination within the meaning of the Weldon Amendment.
... A finding that CDMHC has violated the Weldon Amendment might require the government to rescind all funds appropriated ... to the State of California.... HHS' Office of General Counsel, after consulting with the Department of Justice, has advised that such a rescission would raise substantial questions about the constitutionality of the Weldon Amendment.
Los Angeles Times reports on OCR's ruling.