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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

No healthcare? No choice

Want some women’s rights with that affordable health care? Sorry, the House of Representatives is all out.

Passed in the House version of the health care bill, an amendment proposed by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) may have far-reaching implications for abortion coverage across the entire insurance industry, whether public or private. The Stupak Amendment stipulates that “”no funds authorized or appropriated by this Act (health care bill) may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health care plan that covers abortion,”” though the amendment does include exceptions for incest, rape and potential threat of maternal death.

This amendment will be hotly debated as liberal Democrats demand its removal, while moderate and conservative Democrats, as well as Republicans, call for its inclusion.

At first glance, this amendment is a rewording of the Hyde Amendment. Passed in 1976, the Hyde Amendment was a pro-life response to Roe v. Wade, restricting the use of federal funds for abortion services, except in cases of incest, rape and threat of maternal death. These exceptions are commonly known as Hyde-permitted abortions.

Its new manifestation, the Stupak Amendment, goes much farther in denying women affordable, quality health care and regulating private insurance practices.

In the case of a public option, which may be sacrificed to reach a 60-member caucus, the Stupak Amendment is redundant. A public insurance plan, obviously using federal funds, cannot directly fund abortion services.

The significance of the Stupak Amendment is the restriction of federal subsidies to cover partial costs for an “”exchange””-participating health care plan that covers abortion, even for private insurance plans.

This amendment will force millions of women to choose between affordable or comprehensive coverage.

The insurance exchange targets the roughly 17 percent of Americans who have been unable to secure affordable healthcare. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Americans participating in the exchange will be faced with premiums increased by 10 to 13 percent. Fifty-seven percent of the participants will be eligible for federal subsidies, effectively lowering premiums by 56 to 59 percent.

Mandated to find coverage, millions of American women will search for insurance in the exchange. The majority of participants will be eligible for and need federal subsidies to reduce premium costs to a manageable level. Participants would purchase plans using their own money and receive subsidies, like tax credits, after the fact.

The amendment does contain several options for exchange participants to seek abortion coverage, including abortion-covered plans and abortion “”rider,”” but the practical application is nil.

Legislation that mandates coverage for the uninsured through an insurance exchange, but restricts federal subsidies based on health plans, leaves uninsured women with three options:

1. Purchase an insurance plan from the exchange with subsidies, but no abortion coverage.

2. Purchase an insurance plan from the exchange without subsidies, but which covers abortion.

3. Purchase an insurance plan from the exchange with subsidies and an additional “”rider.””

The first option is the speculative status quo, forcing millions of American women to sacrifice comprehensive reproductive rights for affordable insurance. The majority of participants, due to financial necessity, would choose this.

The second option would require a participant to pay the full cost of a health plan to receive abortion coverage. The Stupak Amendment allows exchange-participating companies to offer abortion-covered plans, but only if they offer the exact same plan sans abortion coverage. Since the majority of participants will accept subsidies and be ineligible, it wouldn’t be cost-effective to tailor additional health plans for a small minority of consumers.

The third option is merely a manipulation of the first option, failing to offer a practical alternative for attaining abortion coverage. Abortion is not a planned visit or routine checkup. Preparing for the worst, women would have to balance their desire for comprehensive coverage and personal privacy. Women covered by a spouse’s plan would likely have to notify their significant other of the additional coverage.

Much like the formation of additional abortion-covered exchange plans, there is no market incentive for issuing supplemental abortion riders.

The Stupak Amendment prioritizes conservative morality over extending nondiscriminatory health benefits to those in need. The purpose of health care legislation is to provide high quality, affordable coverage to those without it. This amendment forces women to sacrifice the rights that millions of more affluent women receive in order to gain health care coverage. The only possible alternative is to pay the full costs of coverage, which prevented millions of Americans from affording coverage in the past, and it only becomes harder during a recession. I can’t speak for the true value of reproductive rights, but I can recognize a politically-motivated attack on women in need.

— Daniel Sotelo is a political science senior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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