By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Less than 24 hours after its introduction as a bi-partisan solution to the controversial health care reform plans currently under consideration, the bill introduced yesterday by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) includes even more abortion coverage than the House bill and would give doctors a financial incentive to reduce care to the elderly and disabled.
“America’s Health Future Act of 2009,” scheduled for mark-up in the Senate Financial Services Committee next week, explicitly includes abortion and would subsidize health plans that cover all elective abortions.
“Senator Baucus’ new health care bill puts to rest the President’s claim that ‘abortion is not included’ in the Senate health care bill,” said Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. “Like the Capps abortion amendment in the House bill, the Baucus plan would subsidize health plans that cover elective abortions but with tax credits. The accounting used in the bill is a matter of smoke and mirrors, since elective abortion is authorized for health plans receiving government subsidies.”
However, the Baucus bill goes even further by mandating that there be at least one health plan in each region across the country which covers elective abortions, Perkins says, which will make it impossible to prevent the federal funding of abortion as promised by President Obama.
“Moreover, the Baucus bill would spend $6 billion to establish health care co-ops and this funding could be used for elective abortion because it is not subject to the Hyde Amendment appropriations provision,” Perkins adds.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) says the bill also 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.
Even more concerning is that 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,” Johnson explains. “But that limitation depends on language in 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 bill, 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.
Currently, only 13 percent of all abortions are billed directly to private insurance, according to the Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood.
The only way to exclude abortion from the bills currently being considered in Congress, including the Baucus bill, is to adopt an amendment put forth by Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak which excludes abortion from all health care reform legislation. Congressional leaders have blocked a vote on the amendment and the President has refused repeated requests for a meeting with Stupak on the issue.
David N. O’Steen, Ph.D., NRLC executive director, also points out that rationing is included in the Baucus bill, which contains a Medicare provision that, beginning in 2015, would severely financially penalize physicians who use the most medical resources.
Rather than considering outcomes or quality of care, this provision would create a “race to the bottom” so to speak with relentless pressure on doctors to limit health care for their older patients.
“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,” Dr. O’Steen says.
In addition, there 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.
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