Abortion building as health reform issue

by on August 30, 2009  •  In Health, Reproductive rights

Among the many problems facing progressives who want to enact a universal access bill this year that will work (i.e. not just shovel more dollars to insurers and big pharma) is abortion, as I've noted before. The only body to have dealt head-on with this issue so far is the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which adopted basically  the same compromise position that was developed 16 years ago in the Clinton effort.

The committee position has several components.  With regard to access via plans offered in new insurance exchanges, the amendment says there would have to be at least one plan that covers abortion and one that doesn't in every part of the country. As far as public monies subsidizing abortion through supplements to allow low-income persons to purchase insurance, the amendment allows coverage of abortion, but the money would have to come from the portion of the premiums that are paid by the individuals. A sliver of those monthly premiums would be segregated and abortion services would be reimbursed from that separate account.The Hyde Amendment and any state law restrictions on access to abortion would remain in place. Lastly, what would the default position be?  Most of the current legislation punts to the Secretary of HHS the authority to promulgate regulations defining what will and will not be required of a basic benefits plan.

Will this compromise hold?  It's not a good sign when elements of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, a faith group that has fought for access to care for the poor for many years, are preaching that no reform is better than any plan that offers an abortion option. As the legislative process becomes more focused on specific language in the coming months, the pressure around this aspect of health reform will grow ever more intense.


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