Insurance coverage for abortion

The Stupak Amendment to the US Health Care bill would dictate that no insurance policy which covers abortion (except in cases of rape, incest or danger to mother’s life) could be part of the pool of insurance plans for which people are entitled to government subsidies. As a long-time UK resident I confess that I was a little unsure at first how much of an impact this would have. My suspicion was that almost no US insurance policies covered abortion anyway. (The NHS, of course, does. And birth control pills are free.) It turns out this was wrong. And, given the way that insurance tends to work, ruling out abortion coverage for the policies in the pool would be very likely to end up denying it to all women. This would be a horrendous result, as these stories from doctors make very clear to anyone in doubt.

This led to a now-familiar US political situation in which feminists were being asked to sacrifice a vital interest of women to the greater good (in this case, of health care reform). And in which those who objected to this were accused of selfishly holding the interests of everyone else hostage to the supposedly niche issue of the health and rights of half the population.

Now, however, the senate has offered a compromise, which– in the way of all compromises– has serious drawbacks. But it is nonetheless a vast improvement.

The key details of the Senate bill are as follows: Both public and private plans are allowed to offer abortion coverage. It empowers consumers to use government subsidies to purchase insurance that covers abortion, but requires that their premiums (and not federal funds) pay for the actual procedures. The Health and Human Services Secretary is charged with evaluating plans to ensure that taxpayers do not pay for abortions. And, while the bill requires at least one plan in each state to cover abortion, it also includes a conscience clause stating that healthcare providers cannot “be discriminated against because of a willingness or an unwillingness … to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.”

For more on the compromise bill, see here. (Thanks, Vishal, for repeatedly but kindly nudging me to write something more on this.)

6 thoughts on “Insurance coverage for abortion

  1. You are welcome, Jender! I am glad you you weren’t vexed by my nudging. :)

    Continuing with the debate, among other things there is quite a bit of misinformation that’s being spread. For instance, some people supporting the Stupak-Pitts Amendment point out that the Hyde Amendment (1976) already bans the use of federal funds for abortion. Not true! As the Wikipedia article points out, the “legislation only bans funds from appropriations for the Health and Human Services (HHS) budget from going to that purpose[abortion].”

    On the other hand, the Stupak-Pitts Amendment prohibits use of Federal funds “to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion” except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother. Clearly, the new Amendment aims to make sweeping changes in federal laws on abortion. It looks like anti-choice supporters have basically managed to introduce a ban on abortion through the backdoor. Without doubt, the proposed Health Care bill has taken the shape of a trojan for pro-choice supporters!

  2. Insurance coverage for abortion is totally new to me. This kind of insurance coverage is far different from other insurance like backpacker insurance. This is a very serious societal issue and I think this is one of the hot topics that really concern the people of the United States. Since beliefs vary from one person to another, this issue can certainly bug the minds of many people from different countries. For me, expecting others to share the same belief with us is never a good idea. There are times in life when all we need to do is respect others as well as their beliefs.

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