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RI revises health care plan after pro-life HIV+ man sues

ADF achieves victory in challenge against Obamacare’s abortion surcharge
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The state of Rhode Island has revised its health insurance exchange by adding plans that don’t mandate a surcharge for other people’s elective abortions. The change is the result of an Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuit filed on behalf of an HIV-positive man who did not want to compromise his pro-life beliefs. In light of the state’s changes, ADF voluntarily dismissed its lawsuit, Doe v. Burwell, Monday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island.

Under Obamacare, the government required every individual purchasing a health insurance exchange plan on the Rhode Island exchange to directly pay a surcharge to cover elective abortions. Now the exchange will offer plans that don’t pay for abortions and don’t require the surcharge.

“Americans should be free to obtain health care without having to pay for elective abortions,” said ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox. “The Constitution and federal and state law protect individuals from this type of government coercion. We commend Rhode Island for revising its health insurance exchange so that the state’s citizens do not have to financially support abortion in order to obtain health care.”

The lawsuit also challenged secrecy clauses within Obamacare which prohibit Americans from being told prior to enrollment whether the plans offered on an exchange will include abortion coverage and a hidden separate payment for abortions. The clauses additionally prevent Americans from being told how much of the premium is a federally mandated abortion surcharge that pays exclusively for other people’s elective abortions.

In response to the lawsuit, Rhode Island created new rules that will require every insurer to offer a plan that does not include elective abortion. The filing instructions will clearly identify plans that do not include elective abortion or a separate abortion payment.

Rhode Island is also providing the plaintiff, who is remaining anonymous because he is HIV-positive, with all the benefits of state and federal programs for HIV-positive patients, including premium assistance and co-pays for his medications. The state has also ensured that he will not be subject to an individual mandate penalty for the months that he was unable to be enrolled in a plan because of the abortion payment requirement.

“The government cannot punish pro-life individuals and force them to violate their beliefs in order to obtain the health care they need,” added ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “We hope other states will follow Rhode Island’s example and respect the constitutionally protected freedom of all Americans.”

The case’s resolution leaves three states – Vermont, New Jersey, and Hawaii – with Obamacare exchanges that require every enrollee to pay a hidden surcharge for elective abortions. An ADF lawsuit against federal and state officials in Vermont remains pending. A separate ADF lawsuit in Connecticut last year resulted in the addition of plans that do not require the separate abortion payment in that state.

Joe Larisa, one of more than 2,500 private attorneys allied with ADF, served as local counsel in the case.

  • Pronunciation guide: Theriot (TAIR-ee’-oh)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.


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