Feds open investigation into Illinois Abortion Act | Local news


SPRINGFIELD – The U.S. Department of Health has opened an investigation to determine whether Illinois violated federal law requiring certain health insurance plans to cover abortion benefits by passing and enforcing the 2019 Reproductive Health Act.

In a letter dated January 19, the last full day of the Trump administration, the HHS civil rights bureau of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society announced that it had received a complaint from the group, filed in October 2019, and I agreed to conduct an investigation to see if certain parts of the law violated federal law.

Specifically, the letter stated that the HHS Civil Rights Bureau “is investigating whether the state of Illinois, through its Department of Insurance and the Department of Central Management Services, is discriminating against health insurance issuers and plans that offer health insurance that restricts or excludes abortion” . Reporting, but for the Reproductive Health Act, ”wrote Luis Perez, HHS deputy director in the Trump administration, in the letter.

However, it is unclear how the investigation will play out when the division moves to the helm of President Joe Biden.

A spokeswoman for the Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in an email statement that his office is aware of the pending investigation but intends to defend the state’s law.

“We were informed – on the last day of the Trump administration – of the intention of the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights to investigate complaints from the Thomas More Society,” said the spokeswoman. “In the event the new government enforces this 11th hour attempt to undermine access to reproductive medicine in Illinois, Attorney General Raoul is working to defend the Illinois Reproductive Health Act.”

The Illinois Department of Insurance regulates small group health insurance plans sold in Illinois, while the Department of Central Management Services administers the state employee health insurance program, both of which come under the coverage mandate of the Reproductive Health Act.

The cover mandate does not apply to private large group insurances that are subject to the Federal Law on Old-Age Income Protection for Employees, also known as ERISA. And while the mandate applies to plans in the state’s Medicaid program, abortion services under that program are only paid for with state funds, not federal funds.

The letter referred specifically to a federal law known as the Weldon Amendment, which has been included in every HHS bill since 2005, “including health insurance plans,” on the basis that the health care facility does not perform, pay, insure, or refer for abortions. .

“This Illinois law requires health insurance policies to cover elective chemical and surgical abortions,” said Michael McHale, attorney for the Thomas More Society, in a press release. “It forces businesses and individuals to even pay for late abortion coverage, and it doesn’t offer religious exemptions. This is a violation of the Federal Weldon Amendment. “

The Thomas More Society, a private, nonprofit law firm focused on religious freedom issues, admitted in its press release that the letter was dated in the final hours of the Trump administration and that it was unclear whether the new Biden administration would die Investigation would continue. President Joe Biden has often expressed his support for the right to abortion.

“The law is the law regardless of who holds office,” McHale said in a separate email statement to Capitol News Illinois. “We would certainly expect the new administration to uphold the rule of law and ensure that all of its agencies are tasked with doing the same.”

Officials from the Department of Central Management Services and the Department of Insurance did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.

Capitol News Illinois is a non-profit, non-partisan news service that covers state government and is distributed to more than 400 newspapers across the state. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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