Thursday, December 24, 2009
Sen. Nelson Defends Abortion Coverage Compromise
Post-Partisan (Wash. Post): Sen. Ben Nelson offers a defense, by Michael Gerson:
I was up early this morning with a call from Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who was much kinder to me than I was to him in my column on Wednesday. . . .
He . . . insisted that the legislative language on abortion he accepted accomplishes most or all of what the Stupak amendment does in the House. Nelson has a background in the insurance industry, and he explained to me in detail how premium payments covering elective abortion would be segregated in his approach. He stands, as far as I can tell, alone among pro-life leaders in this view of the compromise, which is criticized by the National Council of Catholic Bishops, the National Right to Life Committee and Congressman Bart Stupak himself. The fact remains that the federal government, under the Reid-Nelson approach, would subsidize private health insurance plans that cover abortion – a departure from longstanding policy.
See also: Wash. Post: Both sides question health bill's abortion compromise, by Alec MacGillis:
The abortion language that was added to the Senate's health-care bill to win the vote of Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) has achieved a rare feat: It is drawing contempt from both sides.
That could be taken as a sign that senators finally found an elusive compromise on a thorny issue. But serious questions are already being raised about how the new language would work in practice and whether it would even be feasible to implement.
"This is why it's being attacked by both sides -- not because it's so moderate but because it's crazy," said Richard Doerflinger, a spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Sara Rosenbaum, a George Washington University professor of public health and law who criticizes the language as too restrictive, echoes that conclusion: "None of how this is supposed to work is even remotely in the bill, so I don't know what people are thinking about it."
The long-standing ban on federal funding for abortion has complicated congressional Democrats' health-care legislation. Medicaid bars federal funding for abortion, but 17 states and the District allow the procedure for female Medicaid enrollees paid out of their own funds. It is harder to reach middle ground in the bill before Congress, which would provide federal subsidies to millions of people to buy private health insurance plans on a new marketplace, or "exchange." The deal reached by Nelson and other Democrats over the weekend would allow those people to purchase insurance plans with abortion coverage. But they would have to write two separate premium checks -- one to cover the bulk of their plan and the other to cover the sliver for abortion coverage, probably a dollar or so per month. . . .