Senate Majority Leader Reid announced that he will include a “public option“ (government-run insurance plan) in the final Senate health care reform bill. While the language of the final Senate bill, like the final House bill, is not available for public consumption, it is not hard to predict what the inclusion of a “public option” means for abortion funding and coverage.
Reid’s bill is a conglomeration of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Bill, the Senate Finance Committee (Baucus) Bill, and whatever else the Democratic leadership wants. While the HELP bill included a public option; the Baucus Bill did not, including a “co-op” instead. The HELP bill did not state whether or not abortion coverage would be included in the public option; it left that decision to an administrative agency. The Baucus bill specified that private plans could not be forced by an administrative agency to provide abortion coverage; however, it did not speak to a public option because it did not have one. So, how do we know that the public option in Reid’s bill will include abortion coverage and funding?
Look across the Hill: The Capps Amendment, added to the House health care reform bill (H.R. 3200) explicitly allows the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to include abortion coverage in the public option. The amendment also requires funding of such abortion coverage if the Hyde Amendment is ever eliminated from the Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) annual appropriations bill.
What does this have to do with the Senate?
The abortion provisions in the Baucus bill were carefully modeled after the House Capps Amendment ““ the only reason the public option provision is missing is because the Baucus bill lacked a public option. Therefore, it is highly likely that Reid will borrow the Capps public option provision and apply it to the public option in his own bill.
Even if Reid does not borrow the Capps language for his public option provision, administrative agencies and the courts are certain to include abortion as a mandatory minimum benefit in the public option, as they have done with statutory language in the past (see The Vulnerable Hyde Amendment and Abortion Mandate Flow Chart).
That is why health care reform, including any public option, must include explicit language prohibiting abortion coverage and funding. However, amendments to add such language were defeated in both the HELP and the Finance Committees.
So while AUL does not support or oppose the public option itself, we have grave concerns about what the inclusion of a public option will mean for thousands of unborn children, and for the American taxpayer who does not want to pay for abortions.
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