The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced Wednesday that it will disallow $200 million in Medicaid funds from California in the upcoming quarter due to a state mandate that forces insurance plans to cover abortion.
“Entities that receive HHS funds should think twice before flouting federal law and refusing to come into compliance,” said Roger Severino, director of OCR. “ … Whatever one thinks of the legality of abortion, no one should be punished for declining to pay for or assist in the taking of human life.”
In a press release, OCR clarified that “additional disallowances will be imposed at a rate of $200 million per quarter” until California amends its policies.
A notice of violation letter was sent to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Jan. 24, informing him that OCR has completed an investigation prompted by complaints from The Guadalupanas Sisters, a Catholic order headquartered in Los Angeles, and Skyline Wesleyan Church, a nonprofit Christian church located in La Mesa, California. Both complaints accused the state of violating the Weldon Amendment, a federal antidiscrimination law that protects entities from being forced to “provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.”
OCR concluded that California had indeed violated the Weldon Amendment by compelling entities to pay for abortion, and in turn, “forced over 28,000 people out of plans that up until that time had chosen to not cover elective abortions.”
The HHS office gave California 30 days to take corrective action, and even offered to assist the state in coming into compliance with the amendment. But California refused, according to OCR, causing HHS to take further action.
Unfortunately, should Joe Biden assume the presidency next month as expected, it is likely that his HHS Secretary will restore the $200 million in Medicaid funding. Ironically, Biden has selected Becerra, who is an outspoken supporter of abortion, to lead the agency.