With the Senate finally releasing their healthcare package, we are taking a look at their plan and comparing it to the House version. We also wanted to provide you with an in-depth look into how the Stupak amendment would change things for everyone.
Senate Health Care Plan
Last night Senate Democrats, lead by Harry Reid, unveiled their plan for healthcare reform: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Congressional Budget Office said this package would cost $848 billion over 10 years, and still leave 24 million uninsured (a third of which are illegal immigrants).
The plan has many of the same proposals the Democrats have been pushing as the answers to fixing health care: more government intrusion, little to contain cost. There is an individual mandate, a creation of state/regional health insurance exchanges, federal subsidies for low and middle class families and a public option.
As you know, the House already passed their plan at the beginning of the month; and there a quite a few differences between the two packages. One instance of this is the different methods of funding the plans. The House wants to add 5.4% surtax to wealthy people; collect annual fees from health insurance companies; medical devices manufacturers and drug companies and make cuts to Medicare. The Senate is proposing an excise tax on the so-called "Cadillac Health Care Plans"; collecting annual fees from health insurance companies, medical devices manufacturers, and drug companies; making cuts to Medicare; increasing Medicare payroll taxes for workers; and collecting a tax on elective cosmetic procedures.
Another area where they differ is abortion coverage. The House's plan bans abortion coverage with the passage of the Stupak amendment. The Senate has adopted a plan that aims for abortion neutrality. The exchanges would be required to offer plans that cover and do not cover abortion care, so people have a choice. Any insurance companies who receive federal subsides or are members of the public plan insurance companies would be required to segregate the federal funds, and could only use beneficiary premium and private dollars to fund the service.
Look in tomorrow's Voice for Choice for a more in-depth look at the two packages.
The Impact of Stupak
If the President signs a bill with Stupak-like language, it would change how health insurance companies handle abortion coverage and would lead to completely eliminating abortion coverage in insurance plans.
Currently, most employee-based insurance plans cover abortions. The Stupak amendment bans plans within the exchange that accept federal subsides from offering abortion coverage (even though the coverage would be paid for out of non-federally funded premiums). Technically, people who do not get subsidies will be able to buy plans which do cover abortion. The likelihood that plans which offer abortion coverage will actually exist in the exchange is unlikely, according to insurance company experts.
The reason for the lack of optional plans is that it does not make business sense to offer two near-identical plans, with the lone exception of abortion coverage. Most people who are shopping within the exchange will be getting subsidies, and could not buy a plan with coverage, so it makes little sense to insurance companies to offer one.
This is not purely conjecture. Researchers have looked into the 5 states that prohibit private insurance companies from covering abortion. In those states, no supplemental abortion rider actually existed for purchase, especially since women and families don't expect an unplanned or a life threatening pregnancy.
Whether or not the intention of the bill was to severely limit abortion coverage in this country, it will. The bottom-line is if this language passes, abortion coverage will go from being normally covered by insurance companies to abortions being normally excluded from coverage - anything but status quo.