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Welcome to American politics - Health Care Rx Panelists

Welcome to American politics

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Pork-barrel politics bears some resemblance to sexual adventures. Politicians who rail against the indiscretions of others seem no less challenged than the rest of us in honoring their fiscal promise rings. Self-avowed deficit hawks, as the most critical marginal votes, were neither modest nor discrete in chasing special advantages for their districts and constituencies.

Not every deal was scandalous. Sen. Bernie Sanders secured valuable funds for community health centers, for example. Still, enough of the last-minute bargaining was damaging or was straight pork to prompt this week's questions. Insurers and other privileged constituencies were able to evade stringent regulatory and cost control measures. Some progressive measures were left off. For those looking to see special interests brought to heel, this was pretty depressing.

Yet we have to keep our eyes on the ball. You don't alter a $2.4 trillion medical care economy without ladling a little gravy for selected constituencies and interest groups. I wish we had a public option and more stringent taxation of high-cost health plans. I wish we didn't have those insulting and harmful abortion provisions, too. It's easy to become focused on these provisions, or on whether we punish selected bad actors rather than on whether health reform achieves its central goals.

Perhaps I am reaching, but I see some parallel between the fight for health reform and the fight to reduce tobacco-related death. I hesitate to make this analogy because I regard the health insurance industry as a legitimate enterprise that requires stringent oversight. I regard the tobacco industry as a disgraceful set of firms that that knowingly sell an addictive product that has killed millions of people. (Two of those people were my in-laws, wonderful people who died far too soon from tobacco-related causes.)

Meaningful health reform cannot happen without rallying citizens against the excesses and failures of the health insurance industry. A meaningful attack on lung cancer and heart disease could not happen without an even more confrontational attack on the tobacco industry. Yet an exclusive desire to punish Philip Morris and the rest can sometimes lead us astray. To give one example, activists have proposed breaking up the industry. That would lower industry profits and hurt the shareholders, but it would also increase competition and lower cigarette prices, thereby causing great harm. Some good public health measures--such as cigarette advertising bans--have raised tobacco industry profits by reducing their expenditures and creating higher barriers for competitors.

We have to be clear-eyed about health reform, too. Reform advocates seem a little too focused on the daily upticks in health insurance stocks that accompany critical votes. The Senate has passed an imperfect, but extremely valuable bill. This bill will provide health coverage to 31 million people. It will provide key protections to Americans with chronic illnesses and disabilities. It will provide $196 billion per year in subsidies to poor and working people. (As I have noted elsewhere, $196 billion is a huge amount of money.) The bill creates a framework for more effective and economical care, and for improved public health.

We won't get every provision I would like to see. The bill includes some comical or odoriferous provisions to buy off the various senators one needed to cast that 60th vote. Welcome to American politics.

Is the bill worth passing? I think that is a very easy call.

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A hard choice on health care - Health Care Rx Panelists

A hard choice on health care

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Last Friday night, Rep. Bart Stupak put forward a final compromise to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that would have prohibited abortion coverage in the public plan but would have allowed an annual vote on the abortion ban for the private plans. Pro-choice Democrats rejected this, and the stronger version of the Michigan Democrat's proposal then passed.

What happens now? Democratic supporters of abortion rights need to accept that their House majority depends on a large cadre of antiabortion colleagues. They can denounce that reality or they can learn to live with it.

There is also a challenge for abortion's foes, above all the Catholic bishops who have a long history of supporting universal coverage but devoted most of their recent energy to the abortion battle. How much muscle will the bishops put behind the broader effort to pass health-care reform? Their credibility as advocates for social justice hangs in the balance.

And if the Senate forces a change in the Stupak language, one obvious approach would involve a ban on abortion in the public plan -- if such an option survives -- and the application of Ellsworth's rules to the private policies sold in the insurance exchange. The alternative would be Stupak's original compromise offer to Pelosi. There are not many other options.

The truth is that even with the Stupak restrictions, health-care reform would leave millions of Americans far better off than they are now -- including millions of women. This skirmish over abortion cannot be allowed to destroy the opportunity to extend coverage to 35 million Americans. Killing health-care reform would be bad for choice -- and very bad for the right to life.

(Read the full-length Nov. 12 article.)

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Pro-life and pro-universal health care - Health Care Rx Panelists

Pro-life and pro-universal health care

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I am pro-life. It is a huge issue with me. I hold all life sacred and consider the moment of conception as the creation of human life. I am also an advocate for universal health care for Americans similar to what is offered in other developed western nations. There is no evidence that indicates there is an increase in abortion rates in these nations in comparison to the United States. Tying abortion to health care in America however, will only hinder progress on reform.

A law restricting abortion in the House health-care bill prevents the abortion debate from side-tracking efforts to pass much needed reform including a public option for millions of Americans. In fact, without abortion restrictions, the health-care bill could prove to be a back door opportunity for pro-choice proponents to use taxpayer money to fund abortions.

With the issue taken out of reform by law, the focus can be on providing health care for all Americans. Health-care reform will allow us to address the needs of all reproductive age women and ensure the health of mother and baby regardless of socioeconomic status.

It is my hope that publicly funded health care be made available to all citizens and legal residents of the United States, and that includes the unborn.

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"A law restricting abortion in the House health-care bill prevents the abortion debate from side-tracking efforts to pass much needed reform including a public option for millions of Americans."

Actually, of course, just the opposite is true. Attempting to extend restrictions on abortion has already significantly reduced the chances of getting health insurance reform. Many people, such as the writer, cannot understand why rich woman should be able to get a abortion, but a porr woman should have great difficulties to do so.

It seems to me that we are facing either having real government regulation in health care or to allow our for profit heath care insurance provide that regulation.

Since we have some say in running our government I would choose to have governement control the system. I recognize that a for profit insurance company, by definition, must have only their share holders in mind. They can not have societies welfare as a goal. That is why we the people established this government.

Kathy>
I applaud you on your pro-life stance. As a Christian I also am in that camp and it is a very big issue with me also.
I am one of the fortunate people who have health care from my employer, a very lucky individual whose employer pays for my insurance. However, if this bill passes, I amy be forced to pay for my own. Or have none. I do believe changes need to be made and insurance made available to those who don't have it, or at least affordable health care. We need to find a happy medium between FREE and taking everything we are working for.
I have health issues, my husband also. He is an unemployed veteran who has heart problems. I pay for his insurance through our company. What do you think this inforced law is going to do ?
If this law is so wonderful, why are the Senators not going to be using it ?
We need a cheaper better way of doing something for this country. A good start would be stop supporting other countries and take care of our own .

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As much about class as about choice - Health Care Rx Panelists

As much about class as about choice

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Rep. Bart Stupak's amendment did not make abortion illegal. And it did not block the federal government from subsidizing abortion. All it did was block it from subsidizing abortion for poorer women.

Stupak's amendment stated that the public option cannot provide abortion coverage, and that no insurer participating on the exchange can provide abortion coverage to anyone receiving subsidies. But as Rep. Jim Cooper points out in this interview, the biggest federal subsidy for private insurance coverage is untouched by Stupak's amendment. It's the $250 billion the government spends each year making employer-sponsored health-care insurance tax-free.

That money, however, subsidizes the insurance of 157 million Americans, many of them quite affluent. Imagine if Stupak had attempted to expand his amendment to their coverage. It would, after all, have been the same principle: Federal policy should not subsidize insurance that offers abortion coverage. But it would have failed in an instant. That group is too large, and too affluent, and too politically powerful for Congress to dare to touch their access to reproductive services. But the poorer women who will be using subsidies on the exchange proved a much easier target. In substance, this amendment was as much about class as it was about choice.

(Originally published here.)

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Freedom of choice, except for women - Health Care Rx Panelists

Freedom of choice, except for women

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Opponents of the various Democratic health-reform proposals spend a lot of time talking about how people should be free to purchase whatever kind of insurance they want. Except, it turns out, if those people are women.

Going into Saturday's debate on the House health-care bill, the measure included provisions designed to maintain the status quo against federal funding for most abortions. It took steps to ensure that federal subsidies to purchase insurance wouldn't be used to pay for abortion coverage. It required that every exchange include one plan that did not cover abortions, so that no one would be forced to subscribe to a plan that violated anti-abortion beliefs. That wasn't enough for the anti-abortion crowd, including the Catholic bishops. So House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was backed into a corner, facing the loss of anti-abortion Democrats unless she acceded to an amendment offered by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) that effectively prevents insurance companies participating in the new insurance exchanges from covering abortions. It passed, 240 to 197, with 64 Democrats voting in favor.

Under the Stupak amendment, no plan that accepts people eligible for federal subsidies is permitted to cover abortions. It's hard to imagine a plan participating in the exchange that refuses to accept people with subsidies, since the vast majority of people in the exchanges will receive subsidies. Therefore, no abortion coverage in the exchange -- except to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest. If you are a woman whose health is endangered by a pregnancy, you'll have to pay for an abortion out of pocket. Same if you are carrying a fetus with severe birth defects.

Stupak supporters argue that women will still be able to obtain abortion coverage by purchasing a separate rider to the policies. As if people plan ahead to have abortions. As if insurance companies will go to the trouble -- and risk the controversy -- of providing such riders.

It wasn't worth torpedoing health reform over this issue, so I understand Pelosi's choice. It's outrageous, though, that she had to make it.

Originally published on the opinion blog Post Partisan, updated daily at washingtonpost.com/postpartisan.

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Gee whiz, ya think mothers and fathers will have to take care of their children if they are not born perfect now ? I have an autistic grandson who is also mildly retarded. But he is so wonderful. Had he been aborted because of his disabilities, the world would have been a darker place. When did we earn the right to determine who gets to live or die, simply because they are not perfect.
I am so against this health bill for all sorts of reasons . However this is the one thing that actually makes me glad about it. I hold all life as precious. retarded, disabled, severe birth defects, whatever. They all deserve the right to a life that was given them by our Creator.

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When what's legal isn't legal anymore - Health Care Rx Panelists

When what's legal isn't legal anymore

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The House health reform bill's language explicitly prohibits the coverage of abortion by health plans funded by the Federal government. Furthermore, Americans who receive tax credits who purchase private insurance via health insurance exchanges, too, couldn't receive abortions under these health plans.

The exceptions are pregnancies due to rape or incest, or when a mother's life is at stake.

One of the practical implications of further limiting access to abortion for the less well-off is to move these women "off the grid" of the regular health providers they use and into the hands of potentially less safe and unknown providers. The health consequences of such a forced choice will inevitably result in some women showing up in emergency rooms with medical conditions their insurance plans will, ironically, eventually cover.

The Hyde Amendment already restricts women from receiving abortions covered by health plans funded by the Federal government.Thus, the House bill takes Hyde further in eroding women's access to abortions that are currently covered by private health plans. And this, as President Obama points out, changes the status quo.

The bill's abortion amendment moves Americans who have already experienced health insurance access disparities to being further compromised.

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Dear Jane:
As a concerned taxpayer I for one have finally found one thing about this bill I like. My taxes will not longer pay for abortions.

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This page is a archive of recent entries in the Abortion category.

Employer health plans is the previous category.

Health costs is the next category.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in the Abortion category.

Cooperatives is the next category.

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