Fact check on abortion funding in the Senate Health Care Reform Bill

March 4, 2010, 12:20 pm | Posted by

Facts are important in the debate over coverage in the health care reform bill. Last night on Hardball, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) said (video here):

STUPAK: The Speaker is incorrect. In the Senate bill — in the Senate bill, and that’s what they’re telling us the vehicle we’re using. In the Senate bill, it says you must offer insurance policies that will be paid for by the federal government that covers abortion. You must do so.

In fact, the Senate bill prohibits the Secretary of HHS from requiring the coverage of any abortion services as part of the essential health benefits for any qualified health plan offered in a state insurance Exchange. It furthermore allows each insurance company to decide whether or not to include coverage of abortion services, including the Hyde abortion exceptions (cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother), in a qualified plan offered in an Exchange[1].

Rep. Stupak continued:

STUPAK: Also in that same language, if you come in the Senate version, in the OPM, Office of Personnel Management, policies they’ll be putting forth, you must pay — every enrollee must pay one dollar per month into a fund to help fund abortions. It’s very clear. I direct the Speaker’s attention to pages 33 to page 44 of the Senate bill as written in the Senate and passed on Christmas Eve.

In fact, the Senate bill requires insurance companies to include in their benefit descriptions whether or not they cover abortion[2] and requires only those insurance companies that choose to offer a plan with general abortion coverage to collect a separate second premium payment from each enrollee for the cost of the abortion coverage[3]. This provision was added at the behest of Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), who is pro-life, to ensure that no taxpayer money would be spent on abortion (see Sen. Nelson’s floor speech on the abortion language in the bill).

Further, the Senate Bill requires the insurance company to deposit all separate payments into a separate account that consists solely of abortion premium payments and that it is used exclusively to pay for such services[4]. The Senate bill also requires the state health insurance commissioners to ensure that insurance companies comply with these requirements in accordance with guidance and accounting standards set by the Office of Management and Budget and the Government Accountability Office[5].

The exact language from the Senate bill may be found on pages 2069-2078 (note: not pages 33-44), available here. Citations below the fold:

[1] From page 2070 of the full text of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as Passed (note that “services described in subparagraph (B)(i) or (B)(ii)” refers, respectively, to abortions that are not allowed under the Hyde amendment and those that are allowed — cases of rape, incest and the life of the woman):


”(A) IN GENERAL.–Notwithstanding any other provision of this title (or any amendment made by this title)–

”(i) nothing in this title (or any amendment made by this title), shall be construed to require a qualified health plan to provide coverage of services described in subparagraph (B)(i) or (B)(ii) as part of its essential health benefits for any plan year ; and

”(ii) subject to subsection (a), the issuer of a qualified health plan shall deter- mine whether or not the plan provides cov- erage of services described in subparagraph (B)(i) or (B)(ii) as part of such benefits for the plan year.

[2] From page 2076 of the full text of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as Passed:

”(A) NOTICE.– A qualified health plan that provides for coverage of the services described in paragraph (1)(B)(i) shall provide a notice to enrollees, only as part of the summary of benefits and coverage explanation, at the time of enrollment, of such coverage.

[3] From pages 2072-2073 of the full text of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as Passed:

”In the case of a plan to which sub- paragraph (A) applies, the issuer of the plan shall–

”(i) collect from each enrollee in the plan (without regard to the enrollee’s age, sex, or family status) a separate payment for each of the following:

”(I) an amount equal to the portion of the premium to be paid directly by the enrollee for coverage under the plan of services other than services described in paragraph (1)(B)(i) (after reduction for credits and cost-sharing reductions described in subparagraph(A)); and ”(II) an amount equal to the actuarial value of the coverage of services described in paragraph (1)(B)(i), and ”(ii) shall deposit all such separate payments into separate allocation accounts as provided in subparagraph (C).

[4] From pages 2073-2074 of the full text of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as Passed:

The issuer of a plan to which subparagraph (A) applies shall deposit–

”(I) all payments described in subparagraph (B)(i)(I) into a separate account that consists solely of such payments and that is used exclusively to pay for services other than services described in paragraph (1)(B)(i); and

”(II) all payments described in subparagraph (B)(i)(II) into a sepa- rate account that consists solely of such payments and that is used exclusively to pay for services described in para- graph (1)(B)(i).

[5] From page 2075 of the full text of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as Passed:

State health insurance commissioners shall ensure that health plans comply with the segregation requirements in this sub- section through the segregation of plan funds in accordance with applicable provi- sions of generally accepted accounting re- quirements, circulars on funds management of the Office of Management and Budget, and guidance on accounting of the Govern- ment Accountability Office.

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Highlights from the Health Care Summit — and Next Steps

February 26, 2010, 10:31 am | Posted by

In case you didn’t watch all 6 hours of yesterday’s Bipartisan Health Care Summit, our friends at PICO put together a highlight video featuring key segments of policy discussion, as well as personal anecdotes from the President and lawmakers that demonstrated the urgency of reforming the health care system to make quality healthcare affordable for all Americans — real stories of suffering, fear and need which remind us that people’s lives and livelihoods depend on the outcome of this long debate. It’s 13-minute clip, but well worth viewing:

PICO’s web site also has a great table comparing the Senate bill, the President’s proposal, and the House Republican plan, as well as a petition you can send to your Members of Congress to urge them to move forward and pass reform.

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Standing up for health reform once again

February 24, 2010, 6:00 pm | Posted by

On the eve of the Bipartisan Health Care Summit, religious advocates for health care reform are keeping up the pressure on our elected officials, urging passage of reform legislation that delivers quality, affordable coverage for all American families. While all the political uncertainty about reform legislation here in Washington, DC, faith leaders are reminding our political leaders that real lives are at stake.

Our friends at Faithful Reform in Health Care and the Washington Interreligious Staff Community (WISC) Health Care Working Group ran an ad in The Hill today and delivered a letter to Congress and the White House urging leaders to “complete the task at hand on behalf of the millions who are left out and left behind in our current health care system.” The letter was signed by more than 4000 people of faith, 58 national religious organizations, more than 80 regional and state faith organizations, and 26 national faith leaders.

Congregation-based community organizers are mobilizing too. Clergy and community leaders affiliated with PICO National Network are organizing Health Care Summit “watch parties” from coast to coast, and using the events to craft plans for continuing the push for meaningful reform.

Meanwhile, Catholics United has launched an online campaign encouraging the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to stand up for comprehensive health reform. CU member Patricia Pignatiello, whose brother has cancer but can’t afford treatment for it, is urging Catholics to email their bishops and ask them to support reform that will provide people like Patricia’s brother with needed care.

People of faith won’t give up, and they’re going to keep galvanizing around the urgent need for reform that makes quality healthcare accessible and affordable for all American families.There’s too much at stake to let this opportunity slip away.

UPDATE: Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good is taking action too, mobilizing its members to call their Representatives and Senators and tell them to pass reform as soon as possible.

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Breakthrough for health care reform on the horizon?

February 22, 2010, 6:14 pm | Posted by

After being sidelined for several weeks, the health care reform debate’s coming back to center stage this week. Laying the groundwork for Thursday’s bipartisan health care summit, President Obama released an 11-page proposal to bridge the gap between the Senate and House bills. (For a good comparison, check out this table from The Wonk Room.)

Even after months and months of twists and turns in Washington, leaders of the faith community have kept up the effort to make health care affordable for millions of families. As Congress and the White House resume the debate, I expect we’ll hear more from them soon.

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A brief reminder of the urgency of health care reform

February 12, 2010, 3:20 pm | Posted by

The February 25 bipartisan health care summit with President Obama and Members of Congress will put reform back on the agenda after its relegation to the back burner several weeks ago. A couple of recent stories are poignant reminders of the urgent need for these leaders to act in good faith to pass reform legislation as soon as possible. A study released yesterday found that the nation’s 5 largest insurers saw their profits surge by a combined 56 percent in 2009 as they shed 2.7 million policy holders, and Anthem Blue Cross announced last week that it was increasing premiums by up to 39 percent in California.

These eye-popping numbers underscore a reality that faith leaders have been bringing to Congress’s attention throughout the lengthy reform debate: a health care system that leaves millions of Americans uninsured and costs too much for millions more is inconsistent with our values and must be reformed. Simply put, our current system encourages powerful corporations to harm vulnerable people — insured and uninsured alike. It’s just not right.

The Feb. 25 Health Care Summit needs to explore how to address these injustices and deliver quality, affordable choice for millions of American families. Faith leaders and advocates in congregations across the country will keep a close eye on the event, evaluate it in terms of how much closer it brings us to the goal of passing reform, and tell their elected representatives to keep moving forward.

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