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The Capps Amendment is No Compromise

This week, the Senate Finance Committee is expected to report (vote) out of Committee Chairman Baucus’ version of health care reform.  Like the other four Committees (three in the House and one in the Senate) that have reported out health care reform bills, the Senate Finance Committee failed to include in the legislation language that would adequately prevent federal funding and coverage of abortion.

Recent intelligence from the Hill indicates that a purported “compromise” on abortion funding and coverage in health care reform is in the works.  Rumor has it that the template for the language will be Rep. Lois Capps’ (D-CA) amendment that was added to the House version of the bill (H.R. 3200) during the Energy and Commerce Committee mark-up.

In response to the backlash against her amendment, Rep. Capps sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi, arguing that her amendment “was carefully written to preserve the status quo regarding the ban on federal funding for abortion services.”  In reality, the Capps Amendment, and the similar language in the Senate Finance Committee Bill, is a radical departure from the status quo.  Here are Rep. Capps’ arguments in support of her amendment, followed by AULA’s responses.

Rep. Capps:  “The Capps compromise applies the current Hyde amendment to health care reform.  It prohibits federal funding for abortion beyond the cases of rape, incest or life of the woman.  If a health plan chooses to offer abortion coverage beyond these exceptions, it cannot use federal funds to do so.”

AULA:  This statement is inaccurate.  Hyde does not apply since reform would be funded outside of HHS (to which Hyde applies).  Nor, is anything like Hyde part of the Capps Amendment.  While the Hyde Amendment prevents any federal funds from paying for elective abortions through Medicaid, the Capps Amendment explicitly allows the Secretary of HHS to require funding for elective abortions in the public option.  Furthermore, the Capps Amendment permits government subsidies to go to private health care plans that cover elective abortion.  While participating health care plans are supposed to “provide assurances” that no federal funds are used directly to pay for abortions, that does not change the fact that federal dollars are going to plans that cover elective abortions.

Rep. Capps:  “[N]o money from the Treasury will be directed to abortion services . . . [because] money is transmitted to a private contractor who then reimburses physicians. . . .”

AULA:  The fact that the U.S. Treasury will transmit funds to private contractors, who then pay physicians (i.e. abortionists), does not magically transform the money from federal money to private money!  Furthermore, as previously stated, a private plan’s “assurances” that they are not using federal subsidies to pay for abortions is not enough –  no private plans that cover abortions should receive federal subsidies.  Contrast this with current law under the Hyde Amendment.  Under the Hyde Amendment, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) cannot include any plans that cover elective abortion.  In other words, no federal subsidies go to health care plans that include abortion coverage.  That is the status quo ““the federal government does not subsidize elective abortion coverage.

Rep. Capps:  “[I]n 17 states Medicaid provides coverage for abortions beyond the Hyde exceptions.”

AULA: The truth is that under the current version of the Hyde Amendment to Medicaid, states MAY NOT use federal funds or their matching funds to pay for abortions.  If states want to pay for elective abortions, they must use their own revenues that are completely separate from the Medicaid program.  In other words, states must appropriate additional funds, not Medicaid-matching funds, to pay for abortions. In the same way, any states that wish to pay for elective abortions for women who qualify for subsidized health care under the health reform bills may choose to set up their own programs – nothing is stopping them.  However, in order for health care reform to remain consistent with the status quo, no federal dollars can go to insurance plans that cover abortion.

Rep. Capps:  “[T]here is also a requirement in my amendment that in each region, there must be at least one health plan available that does not cover abortion services.”

AULA:  Rep. Capps fails to mention that there is also a requirement that every region include at least one health plan that covers elective abortion.  In other words, under her amendment, for the first time, the Federal government will ensure that there is a private insurance plan within everyone’s reach that covers abortion.

Rep. Capps closes the letter stating that she “worked with great diligence to craft a common ground solution.”  However, there is no “common ground” in the “status quo” on federal funding and coverage of abortion.  Today, elective abortion is not covered or funded under federal law.  Make no mistake — the Capps amendment will change the status quo to embrace federal funding and coverage of abortion.