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Abortion opponents say elective abortions may be covered in high-risk pools

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Abortion opponents say elective abortions may be covered in high-risk pools

Abortion opponents worry that vague language used in the new health care reform bill could lead to the coverage of elective abortions in new high risk insurance pools and say that may already be starting in New Mexico and Pennsylvania.

The Associated Press: "Federal officials say elective abortion is barred under the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. It offers coverage to people turned down by private insurers because of medical problems, at rates comparable to what the healthy pay. But at least one state — New Mexico — initially listed elective abortion as a covered benefit, reversing course after The Associated Press inquired on Wednesday. National Right to Life and other abortion opponents say rules for the program have not been clearly spelled out, and that could open the way for taxpayer-subsidized coverage of elective abortion. … New Mexico included elective abortion as a covered benefit, following what it was already doing with its own state health programs" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 7/14).

USA Today: "Abortion opponents are warning that abortions will be covered in some new government health care programs for people who have been denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions, despite an order signed by President Obama forbidding the use of federal money for the procedure. The order, signed by Obama in March in an effort to win enough votes to pass sweeping health care legislation, is 'a sham,' says House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio. The National Right to Life Committee is citing language on government websites in two states — Pennsylvania and New Mexico— suggesting that new federally funded high-risk insurance pools for patients with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes will cover 'elective' abortions for residents of those states. The Obama administration, however, says it will make sure abortions are not covered under the new high-risk insurance pools in the states, many of which are scheduled to take effect next month" (Hall, 7/14).

The Hill: "To placate anti-abortion Democrats, President Obama signed an executive order barring use of federal funds to cover abortions in health insurance exchanges. That order does not apply to the high-risk pools. 'This was one of the many concerns from the beginning: that abortion language in the bill doesn't cover high risk pools,' Susan B. Anthony List spokeswoman Kerry Brown told The Hill" (Pecquet, 7/14).

The Washington Times: "Pennsylvania and federal officials insist the money would cover only nonelective, or necessary, abortions. Both sides, however, essentially have staked their argument on the meaning of a 'necessary' abortion and a passage in the roughly 60-page proposal from the program, which provides insurance to residents previously denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions" (Weber, 7/14).

ABC News: "The Obama administration reiterated today that funding for President Obama's health care legislation would only pay for abortions in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is at risk" (Tapper, 7/14).

Abortion is also a controversial issue as states begin plans for the insurance exchanges that were created in the new health law.

The Hill: "Missouri on Wednesday will become the fifth state to ban health plans from offering abortion coverage on its health insurance exchange. ... The legislation has exemptions for rare cases where the mother's life is in danger from 'a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury' including 'a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.' Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee have already passed opt-out legislation" (Pecquet, 7/14). "Frank A. Hoffmann, a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives … helped shepherd legislation signed by Governor Bobby Jindal last week that will ban abortion coverage from the one-stop 'health exchange' that his state is legally required to create by 2014. ... [Louisiana] lawmakers also decided to deny medical malpractice protection to doctors who perform certain elective abortions and gave the state the authority to shut down an abortion clinic that is not in compliance with state law. ... That means a woman seeking an abortion ... would still have access to it, but if she gets her insurance through an exchange, she would have to pay for the abortion on her own. Nearly a dozen states approved significant anti-abortion laws this year, more than in recent years" (Prah, 7/15).

On a separate note, The Associated Press/Boston Globe report: "A federal judge yesterday blocked a new Nebraska law requiring mental health screenings for women seeking abortions because the measure could have made it impossible to get an abortion in the state. US District Judge Laurie Smith Camp granted Planned Parenthood of the Heartland's request for a preliminary injunction against the law, which was supposed to take effect today. The order will prevent the state from enforcing the law until the lawsuit challenging it is decided. State officials have said the law is designed to make sure women understand the risks and complications that may accompany an abortion" (Funk, 7/15).

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent news service. It is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health-care-policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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