Pro-Life support for Health Care Reform /Catholic hospitals too

The American people want health care reform. One of the biggest blocks has been the claim that public support for abortion has not been sufficiently proscribed. This article from the National Catholic Reporter puts the lie to that claim.

Pro-life group urges Congress to pass Senate health care bill

By Thomas C. Fox
Created Mar 12, 2010

Twenty-five pro-life Catholic theologians and Evangelical leaders yesterday sent letters to members of Congress urging them not to let misleading information about abortion provisions in the Senate health care bill block passage of sorely-needed reform.

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a Washington-based advocacy group, said that the Senate health bill upholds abortion funding restrictions and supports pregnant women.

The letter included a page by page analysis of the Senate bill as it pertains to abortion.

The group asked members of Congress “to make an informed decision about this legislation based on careful deliberation guided by facts.”

“We believe that the provisions below provide extensive evidence that longstanding restrictions on federal funding of abortion have been maintained. Furthermore, this bill provides new and important supports for vulnerable pregnant women,” the letter states.

The complete text of the letter follows:

Dear Member of Congress,

As Christians committed to a consistent ethic of life, and deeply concerned with the health and well-being of all people, we want to see health care reform enacted. Our nation has a rare and historic opportunity to expand coverage to tens of millions of people, make coverage more affordable for all families, and crack down on many of the most harmful practices of the health insurance industry.

We are writing because of our concern about the lack of clear and accurate information regarding abortion provisions in the health care reform bill passed by the Senate on December 24, 2009.

Reforming our health care system is necessarily complex, and the provisions related to abortion, or any other issue, require careful examination of the facts as they exist in the legislative language. We believe that the provisions below provide extensive evidence that longstanding restrictions on federal funding of abortion have been maintained. Furthermore, this bill provides new and important supports for vulnerable pregnant women.

Following is a comprehensive factual listing of all provisions related to abortion and positive supports for pregnant women in HR 3590, along with specific page references.

Abortion-Related Provisions Included in the Senate-Approved Health Care Reform Bill “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (HR 3590 EAS/PP)

· Prohibits the Secretary of HHS from requiring the coverage of any abortion services as part of the essential health benefits for any qualified health plan offered in a state insurance Exchange (pg. 2070);

· Allows the insurance company to decide whether or not to include coverage of abortion services, including the Hyde abortion exceptions, in a qualified health insurance plan offered in a state insurance Exchange (pg. 2070);

· Prohibits insurance companies from using federal funds, including federal tax credits and cost-sharing assistance, to pay for abortion services except for those services allowable under the Hyde amendment (pg. 2071);

· Requires an insurance company that chooses to offer a plan in a State Exchange with abortion coverage, beyond the Hyde abortion exceptions, to collect a separate second premium payment from each enrollee for the cost of the abortion coverage (pgs. 2071-2072 & 2074-2075);

· Requires the insurance company to deposit all separate payments into a separate account that consists solely of abortion premium payments and that it is used exclusively to pay for such services (pgs. 2072-2074);

· Requires the state health insurance commissioners to ensure that insurance companies comply with these requirements in accordance with guidance and accounting standards set by the Office of Management and Budget and the Government Accountability Office (pg. 2075);

· Requires insurance companies that offer general abortion coverage as part of a qualified health plan to provide a notice of coverage in the summary of benefits and coverage explanation (pg. 2076);

· Allows states to pass a law prohibiting the inclusion of abortion coverage in plans offered in a state health insurance Exchange (pg. 2069);

· Requires the director of the Office of Public Management to ensure that there is at least one private, multi-state qualified health plan offered in each state insurance Exchange that does not provide coverage of abortion services beyond the Hyde exceptions (pgs. 2087-2088);

· Prohibits insurance companies offering qualified health plans from discriminating against any individual health care provider or health care facility because of its unwillingness to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions (pg. 2076);

· Prohibits the preemption of state laws regarding abortion (pg. 2077);

· Maintains current Federal laws relative to conscience protection; willingness or refusal to provide abortion; and discrimination on the basis of the willingness or refusal to provide, pay for, cover, or refer for abortion or to provide or participate in training to provide abortion (pg. 2077);

· Establishes and provides $250 million for programs to support vulnerable pregnant women (pgs. 2170-2173); and

· Increases the adoption tax credit and makes it refundable so that lower income families can access the tax credit (pgs 2400-2407).

We are now at a critical moment in the history of our country. More than 30 million Americans may finally gain access to a health care system that is affordable — providing families, children and seniors with fundamental care that is essential to human dignity. We respectfully ask that you make an informed decision about this legislation based on careful deliberation guided by facts.


Morna Murray
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good

Ron Sider
Evangelicals for Social Action

Rev. Jim Wallis
President and CEO

These signatures were followed by 22 more in the published document.


Catholic hospitals support health care bill

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR Associated Press Writer

Posted: 03/13/2010 09:14:24 AM PST

WASHINGTON—A group representing Catholic hospitals Saturday rallied behind President Barack Obama’s health care bill ahead of a House vote in which anti-abortion lawmakers could play a decisive role.The chief executive of the Catholic Health Association, Carol Keehan, wrote on the group’s Web site that although the legislation isn’t perfect, it represents a “major first step” toward covering all Americans and would make “great improvements” for millions of people. The more than 600 Catholic hospitals across the country do not provide abortions as a matter of conscience.

The association’s support widens a split among abortion foes on whether the bill goes far enough to prevent taxpayer funding for the procedure. House Democratic leaders are trying to turn that debate to their advantage as they press for a vote on Obama’s bill as early as this coming week. Winning over even a handful of anti-abortion Democrats could help Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., find a clear path to the 216 votes she needs for passage.

Major anti-abortion groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Right to Life Committee, are adamantly opposed to the legislation, preferring stricter restrictions passed last November by the House.

Keehan said in an interview that she believes the approach now in the bill would work just as well to keep federal dollars from being used to pay for abortion.

“On the moral issue of abortion, there is no disagreement,” Keehan said. “On the technical issue of whether this bill prevents federal funding of abortions, we differ with Right to Life.”The current legislation would allow private insurance plans operating in a new insurance marketplace to cover abortions, provided they do not use taxpayer funds. What makes that tricky is that many of the plans’ customers would be receiving federal subsidies to help pay their premiums. So the legislation requires plans offering abortion coverage to collect a separate premium from their policyholders. Those separate checks would have to be kept in a different account from money for other health care services.

The abortion provisions Obama’s bill are identical to those in the Senate legislation that passed on Christmas Eve. But the bishops and National Right to Life prefer the approach in the House bill.

The House bill prohibited any plans receiving federal subsidies from covering abortion. Women desiring insurance coverage for the procedure would have to buy a separate policy.

Federal law since the 1970s has forbidden the use of taxpayer funds to cover abortion except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. But many private insurance plans cover abortion as a legal medical procedure. How to deal with the divisive issue in health care overhaul was a source of controversy from the beginning.

Douglas Johnson, legislative director for National Right to Life, dismisses the segregation of funds called for in the Senate bill as a bookkeeping trick. His group has served notice it will count any vote for the House bill as support for taxpayer-funded abortion. The bishops reiterated their opposition in a letter to Congress on Friday.

“No Catholic hospital executive has ever turned out hundreds of volunteers to man the phone banks or walk the precincts for an endangered congressman or his challenger,” Johnson said in response to the hospital group’s announcement.

Keehan said she’ll have to agree to disagree.

“We are trying to respect other people’s conscience and views,” she said. “But we also weigh in with our conscience and views. We think this bill is a good first step to health care reform.”


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