August 5, 2009
AP: Proposed Health Insurance Would Allow Abortion Coverage
Proposed health care legislation could allow a new government-sponsored insurance plan to fund abortions, the Associated Press reports.
Pro-life groups want specific restrictions on a health care plan that offers abortion, and a measure was passed, then reversed last week in a House committee.
The new federal funds would take the form of subsidies for low- and middle-income people buying coverage through the health insurance exchange. Subsidies would be available for people to buy the public plan or private coverage. Making things more complicated, the federal subsidies would be mixed in with contributions from individuals and employers. Eventually, most Americans could end up getting their coverage through the exchange.
The Democratic health care legislation as originally introduced in the House and Senate did not mention abortion. That rang alarm bells for abortion opponents.
Since abortion is a legal medical procedure, experts on both sides say not mentioning it would allow health care plans in the new insurance exchange to provide unrestricted coverage.
It would mirror the private insurance market, where abortion coverage is widely available.
The Wall Street Journal explains how a state universal health-care program has impacted a Catholic hospital system.
This spring in Massachusetts, a Catholic hospital system announced a joint venture with a secular company to provide insurance to the poor under the state's universal health-care program.
The venture fulfilled one pillar of Catholic social teaching -- caring for the needy.
But it violated another principle, because the state-run health plan for low- and moderate-income adults subsidizes abortion. The Catholic hospital didn't perform abortions but was required to refer patients to clinics that would, an act the church considers immoral.
Conservatives are also concerned about how health-care plan would impact end of life decisions.
The focus of their ire is a provision tucked deep inside the House bill that would provide Medicare coverage for an end-of-life consultation once every five years. If a person falls ill with a life-threatening disease, more frequent sessions would be allowed.
...But proponents of the end-of-life care measure say it does nothing close to what McCaughey, Thompson, Boehner and others assert.
The provision would require Medicare to cover advanced care consultations for the first time, but it does not mandate individuals to take advantage of the benefit, proponents say. The consultations would take place between the patient and a doctor or nurse practitioner, not a government bureaucrat. And there would be no requirement for the individual to sign a directive or living will at the end of the discussion.