The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced on Wednesday that it will disallow $200 million in federal Medicaid funding to California in the upcoming quarter beginning January 1, 2021. OCR made this decision after California illegally mandated that all health care plans cover the cost of abortion without exclusion or limitation.
OCR will refuse the funding to California unless the State comes into compliance with the Weldon Amendment, a 2009 provision which ensures that no State or local government may discriminate against a health care entity for not providing, paying for, providing coverage for, or referring for abortions. If the State of California does not come into compliance, OCR will impose further disallowances at the rate of $200 million per quarter. California has repeatedly violated the law despite OCR’s calls for it to comply beginning in January 2020.
“Entities that receive HHS funds should think twice before flouting federal law and refusing to come into compliance. As a result of our actions today, California will be losing $200 million in federal funds per quarter […],” said Roger Severino, OCR Director. “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.”
According to HHS, OCR began investigating California after complaints were filed by both a Catholic order of religious sisters and a non-profit Christian Church alleging that the California Department of Managed Health Care began mandating abortion coverage by health care plans in 2014. That mandate forced seven health insurance issuers that had not previously covered elective abortions to suspend health plans, forcing 28,000 people out of those health plans.
On January 24, 2020, OCR found California in violation of the Weldon Amendment for forcing health plan issuers to fully cover abortion or else face the consequence of not being able to issue insurance plans in the state. Since then, California has still refused to comply with the law, leading OCR to refer the issue to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for enforcement.
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