Tom McFeely is the National Catholic Register’s News Editor. He lives in British Columbia.
The summary of the health-care reform bill that Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., will submit next week to his committee contains language that purports to prevent federal funding of abortion.
Not true, according to this press release the National Right to Life Committee e-mailed to the Daily Blog a few minutes ago:
WASHINGTON—The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the nation’s largest pro-life group comprised of 50 state right-to-life organizations and about 3,000 local chapters, today reacted to the new bill issued by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mt.).
ABORTION MANDATES AND FEDERAL SUBSIDIES
The following statement may be attributed to Douglas Johnson, NRLC legislative director:
The “America’s Healthy Future Act,” proposed today by Senator Max Baucus (D-Mt.), contains an array of pro-abortion mandates and federal subsidies for elective abortion. National Right to Life strongly opposes the legislation in its current form. We will work in support of amendments to eliminate the abortion mandates and federal abortion subsidies.
The bill contains provisions that would send massive federal subsidies directly to both private insurance plans and government-chartered cooperatives that pay for elective abortion. This would be a drastic break from longstanding federal policy, under which federal funds do not pay for elective abortions or subsidize health plans that cover elective abortions. For example, current law prohibits any of the over 250 private health plans that participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program from paying for elective abortions, because these plans receive federal subsidies. These private plans cover over 8 million federal employees and dependents, including members of Congress.
Thus, under the Baucus bill, like the House Democratic leadership bill (H.R. 3200), federal funds would subsidize coverage of elective abortions. In addition, the Baucus bill requires that a specific charge must be included in the premiums paid by those who enroll in such subsidized plans, of at least “$1 per enrollee, per month,” which amounts to a surcharge specifically for elective abortions.
These bills are not consistent with President Obama’s September 9 claim that “no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions,” or with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius’s September 13 affirmation that “no public funds would go to fund abortions.” Funds spent by federal agencies are, by law, federal funds. The claim that under these bills, a federal agency would use “private funds” to subsidize abortions is absurd on its face—a political hoax.
In addition, the Baucus bill provides $6 billion in federal funds for the establishment of health insurance cooperatives, without any limitation on the use of these funds to pay for abortions or to subsidize plans that pay for elective abortions.
In addition, the Baucus bill contains language that would allow the federal government to declare abortion to be a “mandated benefit as part of a minimum benefits package” in any circumstances in which the federal Medicaid program could pay for an abortion. Currently, the federal Medicaid program pays for abortion only in three limited circumstances: to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest. But that limitation depends on language, the Hyde Amendment, that expires every September 30, and that must be renewed annually as part of the Health and Human Services appropriations bill. Under the Baucus language, if one house of Congress, and/or the President, blocked renewal of the Hyde Amendment, many private insurance plans could be forced to include abortion on demand as a mandatory benefit in the minimum benefits package. This would be another major departure from the status quo. (Currently, only 13 percent of all abortions are billed directly to private insurance, according to the Guttmacher Institute.)
HEALTH CARE RATIONING
In addition to the abortion funding provisions described above, the bill also contains important elements that would greatly impact the ability of patients to receive unrationed medical care. The following statement may be attributed to David N. O’Steen, Ph.D., NRLC executive director:
With respect to rationing, the proposal contains a Medicare provision that, beginning in 2015, would severely financially penalize physicians who are in the top 10% of medical resource use. This provision does not link funding to outcomes or quality; instead, it will force a “race to the bottom” with relentless pressure on doctors to limit health care for their older patients. On top of the significant Medicare cuts in the bill, this will gravely endanger the lives of America’s senior citizens.
The bill does contain language to prevent the use of comparative effectiveness analysis in a manner that would discriminatorily deny treatment because of age, disability, or terminal illness; however, this language would not affect the financial incentive to ration care as described above.
There are other places in the bill where the Secretary of Health and Human Services is given discretion to regulate the treatment that healthcare providers can give to their patients. NRLC will continue to review the bill and provide further analysis.
The National Right to Life Committee is the nation’s largest pro-life group with affiliates in all 50 states and over 3,000 local chapters nationwide. National Right to Life works through legislation and education to protect those threatened by abortion, infanticide, euthanasia and assisted suicide.