Health Care and Abortion, Again

Today’s New York Times essentially owns up to what conservatives have been saying, and what President Obama branded a lie during his joint address to Congress: federal funding for abortion is very much on the table in the health care debate. Let’s take a look:

Abortion opponents in both the House and the Senate are seeking to block the millions of middle- and lower-income people who might receive federal insurance subsidies to help them buy health coverage from using the money on plans that cover abortion.

Hard cases make bad grammar, apparently.

Abortion-rights supporters say such a restriction would all but eliminate from the marketplace private plans that cover the procedure, pushing women who have such coverage to give it up.

In other words, up for discussion is what happens if the plan is structured to subsidize nominally private plans rather than a “public option.” Under a public option, the issue would be squarely presented: the plan would cover abortions, or not. In the case of subsidies, it would be indirect. Abortion supporters are concerned that this would entangle the government in regulating private plans’ provision of insurance for abortion, but of course the whole health-care proposal is about the government regulating all sorts of things the insurers can and can’t cover (recall the exhaustive list of things Obama, in his speech, said would be henceforth prohibited or mandated). The point of keeping the health care sector private is to get government out of those decisions. Once it’s in the door regulating everything else, it rings hollow for the proponents of all that other regulation to say that objecting to subsidizing plans that cover abortion isn’t the business of the people doing the subsidizing. Consider this line:

The bills would also mandate the availability in each state of at least one plan that covers abortion and at least one that does not.


The question looms as a test of President Obama’s campaign pledge to support abortion rights but seek middle ground with those who do not. Mr. Obama has promised for months that the health care overhaul would not provide federal money to pay for elective abortions, but White House officials have declined to spell out what he means.

Yes, well, he said he’d seek middle ground, but on every substantive issue his record and pledges hewed to the furthest-left position possible. He also pledged to restore federal funding for abortion, but the Times won’t tell its readers that.

Democratic Congressional leaders say the latest House and Senate health care bills preserve the spirit of the current ban on federal abortion financing by requiring insurers to segregate their public subsidies into separate accounts from individual premiums and co-payments. Insurers could use money only from private sources to pay for abortions.
But opponents say that is not good enough, because only a line on an insurers’ accounting ledger would divide the federal money from the payments for abortions. The subsidies would still help people afford health coverage that included abortion.

Precisely so, as anyone remotely familiar with the fungibility of money and the pricing of any sort of service could tell you. The Democrats’ defense is that they are already using a similar system to evade the Hyde Amendment in the Medicaid program:

Supporters of the current segregated-money model argue that 17 state Medicaid programs that cover elective abortions use a similar system, dividing their federal financing from state revenues they use to pay for procedures.

Moreover, it’s not just the Republicans balking. Democrats like Bob Casey, who claim to be pro-life while supporting only Supreme Court Justices they believe will uphold Roe v Wade, are finding the pro-abortion extremism of the health care bills too much to swallow. As a result, even the Times can no longer deny what Obama has been furiously insisting was a complete fiction: that unless it includes a solid prohibition, a vote for the health care bill is a vote for federal taxpayer money subsidizing abortion.

9 thoughts on “Health Care and Abortion, Again”

  1. It really is bizarre the way they are going about this. Instead of getting a foot hold and then gradually expanding, They are doing everything in their poer to alienate people with hot button issues.

  2. Yes, dch. It’s almost as if they are in the pockets of the insurance companies and are looking for a way to do the insurance companies bidding.
    OTOH, wait ’til the teabaggers find out that Obama wants to put a priest between the citizens and their doctors. The shit will really hit the fan then.*
    *Or we’ll find out the teabaggers are a bunch of dipshits who sat on their hands or cheered on our Unitary Executive President for 8 years, but are now upset that black people might get access to healthcare. In the teabaggers defense, the heads of the GOP (Limbaugh, Hannity, and Murdoch) didn’t tell them how high to jump during the W years.

  3. Too tired to argue with mental patients today. Here is my point-the Dems could have had a health care package with probably about 80% of what they were seeking. First, they should have proposed this when Obama was first sworn in, they didn’t, they let him spend poltical capital on the non-stimulating “stimulus and “crap and trade”. Now the polls are showing record low support and they are adding things to it which is just going to enrage opposition to it and make moderates less likely to support it-I don’t get it. Are they reading the polls? I always knew 2010 was going to be great for House pickups, but the number of safe Dem Senate seats now in play is amazing. The projected losses for Dem Governor seats is frightening for Dems.

  4. The reason they can’t roll with just the popular parts of reform is that it doesn’t work without the unpopular parts. You can’t cut insurance costs unless young healthy people buy insurance and subsuidize the sickly (thus the mandate.) You can’t cut ER visits unless you insure illegals. You can’t cut end-of-life care without death panels.
    What would be popular is tort reform, but rather than PO their trial lawyer supporters, the Donks would rather see black people go without health care. Shame on them.

  5. Mandated health insurance would be fine by me, limited to catastrophic care-type of health problems. In exchange, tell insurance companies there are no more denials for enrollment. Then you don’t have to worry about things like abortion. And you don’t need a 1100 page bill or whatever it is.
    Tort reform is fine, but it’s small potatoes in terms of the cost.

  6. Mandated health insurance would be fine by me, limited to catastrophic care-type of health problems. In exchange, tell insurance companies there are no more denials for enrollment. Then you don’t have to worry about things like abortion. And you don’t need a 1100 page bill or whatever it is.
    Tort reform is fine, but it’s small potatoes in terms of the cost.

  7. Most of the cost estimates I’ve seen attributed to lawsuits does not count testing and procedures that doctors use to cover their asses.
    Mississippi has put a huge dent in their malpractice premiums with some common sense reforms, though MS was truly out of control with lawsuits.
    And even if that cost is “small potatoes” ($200 billion according to the AMA), in terms of the entire picture, you ought to ask your doctor if he thinks a 33% reduction in his malpractice premiums is significant.

  8. I bet the doctor will say the 33% reduction on premiums is significant.
    Unfortunately, tort reform won’t allow for this 33% reduction.
    When the doctor pays the premium, that money is invested. When cases are won by the plaintiff money, is taken out of the investment pool and paid to the plaintiff. What’s left in the investment pool is the malpractice insurers profits.
    We saw this in the early part of this decade. Although malpractice payouts had gone down or stabilized, insurance premiums continued to rise. Why? Because of the bursting of the stock market bubble in 2001. Their investments were not providing the profits to which the insurers had grown accustomed, so they made up the difference by increasing the doctors premiums.
    If you want to enact tort reform, don’t do it (solely) on the backs of those who have been wronged.
    I suppose one could enact a provision in tort reform law that enforces a 33% reduction in malpractice premiums, but good luck getting that past the insurers.

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