Here We Go Again

Here We Go Again July 14, 2010

Updated Below

We’re back to the abortion and healthcare debate. True to form, the National Right to Life Committee is attacking a Pennsylvania high-risk insurance pool for supposedly subsidizing abortion. And of course Republican John Boehner leaped with lightning speed on the bandwagon.

But this is another major storm in a tiny teacup. The NRLC”s position is that federal subsidies for this high-risk pool (a paltry $160 million, mind you) will pay for abortion. Even though the guidelines say specifically that elective abortion cannot be covered, the NLRC says that the definition of elective abortion is so fluid under Pennsylvania law that pretty much anything barring sex selection can be covered. Except that this isn’t right.

As NPR’s Julie Rovner notes, both the Obama administration and Pennsylvania officials are on record as saying the NRLC’s interpretation is wrong – in these situations, federal law dominates, and the federal guidelines will not allow abortion coverage. There is no argument, and no confusion – except for the NRLC. This reminds me of the furore over the community health center funding – a desperate attempt to find some loophole to derail the whole reform process. What gets lost each time is what these programs actually achieve. The community health centers provide healthcare to poor women, delivered in a manner than respects subsidiarity. And high-risk pools – a Republican idea, by the way – are a way of insuring people who cannot get coverage on the individual insurance market. It is a stopgap measure until discrimination based on pre-existing conditions is finally banned in 2014.

As our friends at Faith in Public Life note, the people raising this issue today are the very people who opposed reform tooth-and-nail in the first place, and who desire repeal today. Yet again, they are using the unborn to serve their political ends. Sadly, the NRLC has shown that it cannot be trusted during this debate. I’m talking about the over-the-top allegations (death panels, anyone?). I’m talking about the inconsistency – remember, the NRLC fully supported the subsidization of the Medicare Advantage program during the Bush administration, even with incredibly loose protections against abortion (and today, Medicare Advantage is offering elective abortions in some places). The biggest mistake the USCCB made was working too closely with the NRLC.

Update from M.Z.:

As is the case with FEHB plans currently, and with the Affordable Care Act and the President’s related Executive Order more generally, in Pennsylvania and in all other states abortions will not be covered in the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) except in the cases of rape or incest, or where the life of the woman would be endangered.

Our policy is the same for both state and federally-run PCIP programs. We will reiterate this policy in guidance to those running the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan at both the state and federal levels. The contracts to operate the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan include a requirement to follow all federal laws and guidance.

Statement from Health and Human Services, quoted in entirety.

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