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An Real-Life Example of Abortion Funding

July 15, 2010

To follow on my from my last post and MZ’s more recent one, the energy of the Catholic blogosphere is highly concentrated on whether a Pennsylvania high-risk pool that receives subsidies will pay for abortion. Of course, it will not. The law is clear and the statements of the authorities are clear. And yet, private insurance plans that receive federal subsidies in other contexts are paying for abortions, but this does unnoticed. I’ve talked about this before, and this is what I am talking about.

It’s from the Medicare Advantage program, whereby the federal government subsidizes private insurers to participate in Medicare (instead of paying directly, this channels funds to third-parties – private insurers – and it also tends to be more expensive than traditional Medicare). Here is what this policy says on abortion:

Voluntary abortion procedures are not covered under Original Medicare except for the following conditions:

  • If the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest
  • In the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, which would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed.

Coverage for voluntary abortion is provided to members under select Medicare Advantage private fee-for-service plans regardless of the circumstances that led to the pregnancy or the conditions related to the abortion.

There you have it, in black and white. Of course, the National Right to Life Committee not only doesn’t seem to care about this, but it actively supported the Medicare Advantage legislation in the first place, and approved the weakest possible pro-life protection (basically, that an insurer could not be discriminated against for refusing to offer abortion coverage).

And so you have people seeing abortion where it does not exist, and ignoring it under their noses (not only in this rather specific case, but more generally in the widespread funding of abortion from private insurance premiums). What gets lost in the debate is the whole purpose of high-risk pools – to allow people with pre-existing conditions to get coverage until the law kicks in. But when pro-market runs into pro-life, you know what’s going to win every time.

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28 Comments
  1. Phillip permalink
    July 15, 2010 1:57 pm

    I guess this is why I don’t like govt. run health care. It was clear from the news after the passage of Health Care Reform that the Executive Order blocked spending on abortions except for the Hyde Amendment exemptions. But in spite of what were was commonly known and apparently with clear guidelines from HHS, Pennsylvania officials were obtuse enough to put in language into their policies that violated the Executive Order. What else is going to be messed up?

  2. July 15, 2010 1:58 pm

    Strange conclusion. Private insurance is riddled with abortion funding; public insurance, not at all.

  3. Colin Gormley permalink
    July 15, 2010 2:15 pm

    ” public insurance, not at all.”

    Examples?

    “but it actively supported the Medicare Advantage legislation in the first place”

    Evidence? Not denying the claim, but…

  4. July 15, 2010 2:20 pm

    Medicare and Medicare and single-payer public insurance programs. They do not fund abortion. In the private sector, abortion funding is incredibly prolific, but few seem to care.

  5. Phillip permalink
    July 15, 2010 2:24 pm

    I don’t know if it counts as public insurance but PA’s high-risk pool had it in. At least until somebody cried out. That’s what I’m refering to. Again, problematic when govt. officials don’t understand what is so clearly prohibited. At least we’re told its clearly prohibited.

  6. Colin Gormley permalink
    July 15, 2010 2:43 pm

    “Medicare and Medicare and single-payer public insurance programs.”

    Links? And I believe it is Medicare and Medicaid? What singe public insurance programs are we talking about?

  7. Kurt permalink
    July 15, 2010 3:12 pm

    Evidence? Not denying the claim, but…

    Here is the the evidence I happen to have most handy:

    Statement of Kansans for Life, December 9, 2009:

    Due to years of hard work by the National Right to Life Committee, seniors eligible for Medicare are currently free to purchase alternative insurance plans that are less likely to deny life-saving treatments. [These are policies offered under the Medicare Advantage program-- as distinct from the supplemental "Medigap" policies.]

  8. Colin Gormley permalink
    July 15, 2010 3:59 pm

    Kurt,

    Thanks for the statement but do you have a link? I’d like to see the context.

  9. Colin Gormley permalink
    July 15, 2010 4:22 pm

    Kurt,

    One other question, are the ‘[‘ comments yours? Or are they from the original source?

    Not implying anything by the question. Just curious about the details.

    Thanks,
    Colin

  10. July 15, 2010 4:31 pm

    I notice that there is a high correlation between MM’s interest in private insurance funding and criticisms of government funding of abortion.

    As I have said what seems like a dozen times in this case, it seems like this is a case where those on the left should *welcome* the attention being paid on this issue. Private insurance companies are not subject to the same scrutiny as government-run health care. Thus, government health care is better from a pro-life persepctive, because it will be pressured to not cover abortion.

    Of course, this only works if this pressure is welcomed and answered honestly, rather than becoming grist for a tired “who’s the bigger hypocrite?” argument.

    The record has not been encouraging.

  11. S.B. permalink
    July 15, 2010 4:38 pm

    In the private sector, abortion funding is incredibly prolific, but few seem to care.

    There’s where you need evidence (but have none).

  12. Kurt permalink
    July 15, 2010 5:44 pm

    Colin,

    the bracketed comment is from the original (though an accurate notation). I’ll get you the link.

    John,

    Private insurance companies are not subject to the same scrutiny as government-run health care.

    Commerical insurance does not get the same scruntiny because the corrput Pro-Life Movement elects not to give it the scruntiny, out of fear of upsetting their cozy alliance with the Republicans and conservatives.

    Those of us of the anti-abortion Left don’t follow the Pro-Life Movement’s thinking that a baby is less dead because it is killed by the private sector.

  13. July 15, 2010 8:23 pm

    You might be pleased to hear that Louisiana is close to passing a law banning private insurers from covering abortion.

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2010/06/14/louisiana-close-to-passing-pro-life-measures/

    I guess all pro-lifers aren’t pro-market hacks. Stinks for your ideological narrative.

  14. July 15, 2010 9:27 pm

    “Commerical insurance does not get the same scruntiny because the corrput Pro-Life Movement elects not to give it the scruntiny, out of fear of upsetting their cozy alliance with the Republicans and conservatives”

    Oh please!!! I swear the Catholic left is no better than the Catholic right in many regards in making villians of mass groups of people and giving the worse possible intentions.

  15. Colin Gormley permalink
    July 15, 2010 10:32 pm

    “Commerical insurance does not get the same scruntiny because the corrput Pro-Life Movement elects not to give it the scruntiny, out of fear of upsetting their cozy alliance with the Republicans and conservatives.”

    I call. Got a link to back up the accusation?

  16. July 16, 2010 8:10 am

    It’s been a day after I wrote this post, and where’s the outrage? Come on, folks, this is a real-life case of a private insurer taking public funds and offering abortion, no questions asked. And it came under a Bush law supported by the National Right to Life Commitee. And yet we still have lots of outrage directed against the Obama reform for a phony manufactured controversy.

  17. July 16, 2010 8:30 am

    MM,

    Perhaps I would join your outrage if I beleived you were truly outraged and not just using this as a “hypocrisy” cudgel.

    If you raise this issue without a “so where are all the so-called ‘pro-lifers’ jab,” I’d be happy to join you in working to end this.

    Do you have any ideas on how to do this?

    Kurt,

    It is easier and simpler for a variety of reasons to apply pressure on the government than on several insurance companies. Perhaps you are correct that it is coziness of some pro-lifers with industry.

    Regardless of the reasons, my point is that with health care reform, the funding of abortion is now in the daylight and subject to pressure to be more pro-life. I see this as a welcome development, and am struggling to see why pro-life pro-reform people don’t also.

    As I have said before, if the standard for government-run health care is how private insurers are already doing it, then why was there a moral imperative to pass health care reform?

  18. July 16, 2010 8:31 am

    @Kurt,

    I don’t think a baby is less dead than killed by the public sector.

    But I am more outraged that our state still executes people than I am by the murder rate.

    I am more outraged at the government’s torture regime than I am by schoolyard cruelty.

    Aren’t you?

  19. Kurt permalink
    July 16, 2010 10:22 am

    Perhaps you are correct that it is coziness of some pro-lifers with industry.

    Regardless of the reasons, my point is that with health care reform, the funding of abortion is now in the daylight and subject to pressure to be more pro-life. I see this as a welcome development, and am struggling to see why pro-life pro-reform people don’t also.

    The Right-to-Life Movement has decided to throw away what had historically been its most politically powerful asset– the large number of voters who were not political conservatives but who were deeply opposed to abortion. They went far beyond benign neglect and actively insulted and dehumanized this element, doing everything in its power to make the RTL Movement a tool of secular conservativism.

    Then came their great catastrophe of 2010. Charged by their masters with delivering opposition to health care reform from those against abortion but otherwise supportive, they failed. They lost face to their conservative colleagues with whom they sat in daily strategy sessions seeking to stop health care reform.
    They toyed with tricks like asking Republicans to vote “present” on the Stupak Amendment so it would be defeated and they could claim abortion in the health care bill. They invented all sorts of abortion funding claims contradicting standards they used on previous legislation.

    They were met by those who are anti-abortion but pro-health care (rather than like themselves, part of a conservative working group to defeat health care) standing up and saying they are wrong about their claims of abortion in HCR. The Co-Chair and past co-chairs of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, the CHA, a majority of anti-abortion/pro-health care members of Congress, and others all stood up and called them out. And with that, they lost their usefulness to their conservative Republican masters.
    Now they are embarrassed and embittered.

    With the crisis of having failed at their task of blocking HCR, they are struggling for relevance in an increasingly libertarian/Tea Party influenced conservative movement that is tired of culture war issues and wants to make government spending the exclusive focus of conservative action. That is why most of what you will hear from them will be about claims of government funding of abortion. That is the remaining point of intersection between them and their masters. While increasingly indifferent to “big Government” policies restricting abortion rights, the libertarian Right still can be riled by suggestions of government financing.

  20. July 16, 2010 11:33 am

    ? Come on, folks, this is a real-life case of a private insurer taking public funds and offering abortion, no questions asked.

    But the document itself specifies that there are only two groups in all of Michigan that include voluntary abortion coverage in their policies: State of Michigan Retirees (Troopers) and State of Michigan Retirees (Non-Troopers). Now because of a certain phenomenon known as menopause, and because these are policies that apply only to retirees, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that there has never been a voluntary abortion that was paid for by these plans, and that moreover it doesn’t even make sense to me, other than a stenographical error somewhere along the way, that these plans would cover abortion.

    Moreover, these are State of Michigan plans — government plans, NOT private plans. So if this document is the best evidence you have of private coverage of abortion, it doesn’t really get you very far.

  21. July 16, 2010 12:32 pm

    This isn’t evidence of private sector coverage of abortion, this is evidence of Medicare Advantage coverage of abortion. And Medicare also deals with people on disability, not just the elderly – 14 percent of all beneficiaries. And besides, I thought the argument that only a few people are affected wasn’t an appropriate argument when life is on the line?

  22. S.B. permalink
    July 16, 2010 12:43 pm

    I’m betting zero people are affected by the policy you cite. Got any better evidence?

  23. Paul permalink
    July 16, 2010 1:49 pm

    morning’s minion, please clarify your position: Suppose an insurer offers two Medicare Advantage programs: the first covers only those abortions currently permitted under Medicare, while the second covers all abortions. To show that the second program expands government-funding beyond the current Medicare limits, you have to show that the second program is going to be subsidized by the government at a higher rate. Can you show that?

  24. July 16, 2010 4:21 pm

    I have no evidence for the empirical effect of this policy one way or the other. But if it is completely meaningless, why would a private insurer offer it, and brag about it being different from traditional Medicare.

    One could, of course, make the prudential judgment that this will not affect the overall abortion rate. That’s fine. But the pro-life movement does not like to play on these terms.

  25. July 16, 2010 4:31 pm

    Paul: that doesn’t necessarily follow. All that matters is that the second program is using federal funds to pay for an elective abortion. It doesn’t matter how much is being spent of the Hyde-acceptable abortion in this or other plans. In other words, the yardstick is proximity of fungible federal funds to each act of elective abortion. This is the preferred yardstick of the pro-life movement.

  26. Paul permalink
    July 17, 2010 3:35 pm

    morning’s minion, your argument is moving around, leaving the wording of your post potentially very misleading. In the case of Medicare Advantage, you’ve provided no evidence that insurers will receive any money for the purpose of performing abortions beyond those already a part of ordinary Medicare. No loophole there. In which case your statement that: “private insurance plans that receive federal subsidies in other contexts are paying for abortions” is, on its most obvious interpretation, simply wrong — the government isn’t subsidizing those abortions, and it’s the private premiums that are paying for them.

    You then presented an altered argument, based on the fungibility of money: “the yardstick is proximity of fungible federal funds to each act of elective abortion”. In other words, although the government is giving money for one purpose, that money can instead be used for other purposes. That’s obviously potentially true for any donation of money for any purpose. So, if there’s a concern that money given for one purpose will, in an unwanted way, be used for a different purpose, the solution is to try to place conditions on that money. In other words, to try to remove the loopholes by adding in conditions.

    When you say: “this is the preferred yardstick of the pro-life movement”, you are implying that every issue of fungibility ought to be the concern of the pro-life movement, and that they are being inconsistent in attacking some occasions of this and (you claim) not attacking others that are equally wrong.

    But you don’t present any evidence against a blatantly obvious interpretation of the facts that you present: that the pro-life movement is content with Medicare Advantage because it doesn’t contain any loopholes, and is not content with more recent legislation because it was drawn up by those who would not be averse to it having such loopholes.

  27. Anonymous permalink
    July 22, 2010 3:19 pm

    Want to know why there’s no outrage? How many 65 year old women are going to be able to get pregnant?? Those are the only people who qualify for the Medicare Advantage Program. Save the outrage for something that really is doing harm (i.e. the confusion over the availability of public fund for abortion in the new PPACA)

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