Friday, November 20, 2009

The Reality of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment

Meghan Shalvoy and I had the pleasure of hearing the following pro-choice representative speak during Wednesday's pro-choice lobby day in DC.  She has a great explanation of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment on her site.

Jerin Alam
National NOW Young Feminist Task Force
NOW – NYS Young Feminist Task Force Co-Chair
National Organization for Women (NOW)

The Reality of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment
Wednesday, 18 November 2009 21:19

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), Vice Chair of the Committee on Energy and Commerce and co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, today clarified claims made regarding the Stupak-Pitts Amendment.

“The Stupak-Pitts restrictions on a woman’s right to choose are dangerous and unprecedented,” said DeGette. “They go far beyond current law by telling women they cannot use their own private dollars to purchase a health insurance plan that offers a full-range of reproductive services. The health care bill should be about providing health care to over 36 million Americans – not about further restricting a women’s right to choose.”

CLAIM: The Stupak-Pitts Amendment is an extension of current law on abortion funding.

REALITY: Stupak-Pitts goes far beyond current law by placing unprecedented restrictions on individuals’ use of their own private dollars.  The Hyde Amendment does not apply to private funding nor does it apply to administrative costs.  It has only placed limits on direct federal appropriations being used to fund abortion benefits.  The Stupak Amendment expands the Hyde prohibitions on the use of federal funds for an abortion benefit to include “any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion.”  The Hyde Amendment does not include similar, far-reaching language.  Seventeen states currently provide abortion coverage in Medicaid with separate state funding.

CLAIM: The original House bill allows federal funding to be used for abortions.

REALITY: The original House bill preserves current law in the health insurance Exchange and establishes a segregation mechanism that would require insurance companies to reserve private premium dollars to cover abortions separate from any affordability credits.  This is consistent with longstanding federal policy that requires segregation of funds in order to permit religious organizations to accept federal funds.

CLAIM: Segregation of funding under the original House bill is an accounting sham.

REALITY: Segregation of funding to pay for abortions is currently permitted in Medicaid.  Supporters of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment claim that segregation of funds, as set out in the House bill, is not truly an extension of Hyde because funds are fungible.  However, current law also allows for the segregation of funds to cover abortion under Medicaid.  States are permitted to use their own funding to provide additional abortion coverage under Medicaid.

CLAIM:  Allowing women to purchase an abortion rider with private dollars will guarantee access to a full range of reproductive services.

REALITY: There is nothing in the Stupak-Pitts Amendment to ensure that riders are available or affordable to individuals purchasing coverage in the Exchange.  There is no evidence that insurance companies actually offer such riders in the five states that currently require women to purchase a separate rider for abortion coverage.  It is not practical to expect women to plan ahead for an unintended pregnancy, or a pregnancy that goes terribly wrong, by purchasing a supplemental rider.  Furthermore, if only women of childbearing age purchase such a rider then the premium for the rider will likely cost almost as much as the service.

CLAIM: Private plans will still offer abortion coverage under Stupak-Pitts.

REALITY: The Stupak-Pitts Amendment severely limits private plans’ ability to cover abortions.  The Stupak-Pitts Amendment would prohibit any abortions beyond the Hyde exceptions within the public option and any plans sold in the Exchange that receive affordability credits.  Although insurance companies are permitted to offer plans that cover abortion to individuals who do not receive affordability credits, it is unlikely that a health insurance company would choose to forego federal affordability credits—and the profit from the millions of newly insured individuals who will receive them—in order to be allowed to offer abortion coverage.  Furthermore health insurance companies would be unlikely to even offer a plan that does receive any funding from affordability credits because the risk pool would be too small.  In effect, this ensures there will not be any private plans covering abortion available to individuals and small businesses that purchase health insurance in the new Exchange.

Click here to read an interview with The Atlantic with U.S. Rep. DeGette about the Amendment’s effect on a women’s right to choose. A recent report by the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services found that Stupak-Pitts “is likely to have consequences that reach far beyond its supposedly intended scope.” The report concludes that "the treatment exclusions required under the Stupak/Pitts Amendment will have an industry-wide effect, eliminating coverage of medically indicated abortions over time for all women, not only those whose coverage is derived through a health insurance exchange."

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