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EXCLUSIVE: Abortion Fight Threatens Health Care Reform

Friday, March 25, 2011

 

A major health care reform bill that could bring millions in federal funds to Rhode Island could be derailed by abortion foes who are outraged that it could lead to taxpayer-funded abortions, according to sources familiar with the legislation.

“The powder keg that has reared its head in the past week is the abortion issue,” a source in the health insurance industry told GoLocalProv.

The bill sets up a health insurance exchange—an online portal where individuals and small businesses could buy health insurance plans that are subsidized by the federal government. Sources familiar with the legislation say it was written in the vaguest of terms to ensure quick passage and hasten the arrival of federal funding.

‘It would be an outrage’

The legislation is silent about abortion—and the federal health care reform bill leaves it up to the states to decide how to deal with abortion. If the legislation passes in its current form, it would not mandate taxpayer-funded abortions, but wouldn’t prevent them either, according to a source familiar with the bills. (Click here to read the Senate bill and here for the House bill.)

But pro-life leaders are urging state lawmakers to amend the bill so that abortion could not be covered under any of the insurance plans offered through the exchange. Otherwise, the bill could lead to the reversal of a decades-old state law banning public funding for abortions, according to Barth Bracy, executive director of Rhode Island Right to Life.

“Rhode Island taxpayers would be paying for abortion on demand. Period,” Bracy told GoLocalProv. “I think it would be an outrage if the state law is changed. That is a radical shift.”

Senate President under pressure from conservatives

The controversy—which has largely been brewing under the radar—puts Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed between a rock and a hard place.

Passing the bill, which she sponsored, is one of her top legislative priorities this session, according to spokesman Greg Pare. But Paiva Weed also is pro-life. So are two other prominent co-sponsors, Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio and Minority Leader Dennis Algiere. All three senators were endorsed by Rhode Island Right to Life in the last election.

Paiva Weed is under added pressure to deliver to her social conservative base after suffering a political setback on her home turf, according to the source in the health insurance industry. He noted that the Newport Democratic City Committee recently came out in support of gay marriage—which Paiva Weed opposes.

The source said pro-life advocates made a direct appeal to Paiva Weed in a meeting earlier this week. Neither Bracy nor Pare would confirm the meeting. 

A spokeswoman for Algiere also did not respond to a request for comment.

The Senate bill was introduced in January and is scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee March 30. The House bill was introduced earlier this month and has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.

Health reform, millions of dollars at stake

A lot is on the line for Rhode Island. The so-called health care exchanges are part of the national health care reform bill, which passed in 2010. Paiva Weed has previously described the exchanges as the “centerpiece” of health care reform.

“This is the centerpiece of our health care reform implementation,” Paiva Weed said when she introduced the bill. “The exchange will create a health benefit marketplace that is fair, competitive, transparent and understandable to individuals and small businesses. It will also have the important job of getting federal subsidies to the people who need them.”

Failure to create an exchange in Rhode Island would mean that Ocean State residents who need a federal subsidy for health insurance would have to use a national exchange, where there are significantly higher up-front costs for anyone buying insurance.

In the short term, tens of millions of dollars is at stake too. Last fall, the state received $1 million in federal funds for planning the exchange. Next week, the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner will apply for approximately $5 million more that would be used to help set it up. But Rhode Island won’t have a shot at most of the federal funding it needs until it first passes a law creating. The funding would last through 2014, helping the state to open the exchange.

The proposed law does the bare minimum required in order to be eligible for the funds, according to Pare. If passed, it would establish the exchange as a quais-public corporation run by an 11-member board of directors.

It would be up to the board to hash out most of the controversial public policy decisions—such as what kinds of health insurance plans would be offered through the exchange, how small businesses would be included, and whether abortion procedures would be covered. After spending the next year debating those issues, the board would propose a follow-up law in the next legislative session.

But Bracy isn't willing to wait. For one thing, he says Rhode Island pro-lifers aren't asking for much—nothing as aggressive as the famous Stupak Amendment to the federal health care reform bill.

“If the Stupak Amendment is Arnold Schwarzenegger, then what we’re looking for is Pee-wee Herman,” Bracy said. “It’s so emasculated that what we’re looking for is pathetic.”

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Comments:

ed curtis

There are so many other issues with the Obamacare bill that people seem to ignore. Fees and restrictions that would strangle doctors, nurses and hospitals. Businesses would be dramatically effected by this Euro-socialist bill. It's a job killer just to give illegals and the parasites of society free health care that is paid for by others. It must be dismantled.

If the abortion conflict defeats the institution of Obastardcare, then more power to the movement. One way or another, this Euro-socialist entitlement agenda must be stopped.

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Amber Martin

I'm so sick of hearing about how this bill is bad. I know a number of people with no health care who are tax paying citizens who worry every day about how they are going to pay for meds and what they're going to do if they get sick. Insurence companies and doctors over charge, office visits are around $150 and specialist can cost thousands. People go into thousands in debt because they happen to get cancer. It's horrible. We need to care more about people and less about corparations that make money on our backs. Doctors and nurses will still make money, maybe they might have to get a house with one less room, or a car that isn't as fancy but they will still be doing extreamly well. This isn't a socialist move, this is something almost every developted nation has done, but we haven't. As for abortions, at least abortions in the cases of rape, insest or to save a woman's life should be covered.

laura lavallee

Thanks for your clear thinking Amber. If healthcare reform goes away, we are going to be paying a heck of a lot more for care of the uninsured and underinsured when they go to an Emergency room for standard care and let chronic diseases go unchecked. We are already footing the bill through those high pay rates and as a result many of our healthcare facilities are at financial at risk of going under. Why do you think all of our local community hospitals are so strapped? Because they have to pay for the care of people who cannot pay themselves. When your ONLY option is to go to RIH/Lifespan with its deep pockets and high paid executives, you had better worry about quality of care - where do all those wrong side surgeries happen? And for those smug people who say "I've got mine" if there is no reform, you better worry about your friends and relatives when they lose their benefits or can no longer pay the premiums. Far from socialist, it's just humane and reasonable for a society to take care of its people.

Gary Arnold

RI is not set up ethically or management wise to put in a federal health care system that is not well defined. You can bet the GA and BCBS are salivating on this program to line their own pockets.
Any ill-defined federal program, which Obama care is, will be a total waste of tax payers’ money in RI.
Total incompetence will reign again in RI and we the legal tax paying citizens will be paying.
This federal health care is not a free lunch, we will pay much more than we are now to fund millions of uninsured and illegals to this program.
Do everything that can be done to stop our legislators from leading us down a path of destruction. Once again the GA is looking at what they can bring in as federal aid without considering the cost to the tax payers. There are no fiscal minded people in the GA leadership as to what is the net gain to the over taxed people of RI.

ed curtis

More lies propagated by the socialists.

Name ONE THING the government does well?

Amtrak? Post Office? Registry? Welfare? Medicare? NOTHING!

Why on God's green earth would you want these idiots in charge of your health?

If these "uninsured" people would do without their luxury items such as cell phones, cable TV, cigarettes and the dining out, then they could AFFORD their health care.

Sorry but you parasites are not ENTITLED to health care. Especially not on the backs of the rest of us. I pay for my own health care. So should the rest of you.

As for comments regarding doctors overcharging, it's to make up for the scumbags that leach off the system and don't pay a dime. You parasites are NOT entiled to a doctors'labors.

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Joyce Bryant

In 2009 Planned Parenthood performed 332,278 abortions. Stop using the excuse of rape and incest which is less than 1% of all abortions performed in this country.

Get the facts!

http://thatsabortion.com/Abortion Facts.htm

ed curtis

Obastardcare Anniversary

1. Did you know that . . . since Jan. 1 of this year (2011), you cannot use your flex-account at work (FSA) or health savings account (HSA) to purchase over-the-counter medicines?

2. Did you know that . . . since July 1 of last year (2010), Americans have been paying a 10 percent excise tax on all indoor tanning services?

3. Did you know that . . . starting in 2018, if your health insurance is “too good” or considered a “Cadillac” plan, then you will incur a new 40 percent tax on your health plan?

4. Did you know that . . . Obamacare has 21 new or higher taxes in it, totaling over $500 billion in increased taxes going to the government over 10 years?

5. Did you know that . . . beginning in 2014, individuals and families that do not purchase “qualifying” – as defined by federal bureaucrats — health insurance will be forced to pay a yearly tax penalty?

6. Did you know that . . . 7 tax hikes in Obamacare directly break President Obama’s “firm pledge” not to raise any form of taxes on individuals making less than $200,000 per year and families making less than $250,000 per year?

7. Did you know that . . . the capital gains tax rate under Obamacare will rise to 23.8 percent starting in 2012? That is a 59 percent increase from its current rate.

8. Did you know that . . . in 2013, those Americans facing the highest medical bills and the least ability to pay for them will find their ability to deduct medical expenses is further limited (medical expenses must be reduced by 10 percent of income under Obamacare, rather than current law’s 7.5 percent)

9. Did you know that . . . beginning in 2014, businesses with over 50 employees will be forced to offer health coverage for everyone, or pay a hefty tax for each employee?

10. Did you know that . . . in 2013, Obamacare caps the amount individuals and families can put in their flexible savings accounts at $2500? Currently there is no cap and these accounts are used for a myriad of health expenses including paying upwards of $14,000 in tuition to special needs schools for some parents?

Stick that in your socialist pipe and smoke it!

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