The current debate is not the first to swirl around the possibility of publicly funded abortions. In 1976, Congress passed what has become known as the Hyde amendment, a response to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that prohibited the funding of abortions through Medicaid. But whether this same stipulation would apply to other government health care programs remains unclear.
The idea that the proposed health care legislation would eliminate Medicare – a government program that currently provides health care for 44.8 million older Americans – has also taken center stage in recent weeks. But Johnson said that seniors need not worry about such a situation.
"What seniors are hearing that seems to worry them [is] that President Obama talks about reforming Medicare or getting rid of waste, and they are worried his waste might be their need," Johnson said.
Johnson said legislators must be careful to ensure that needed services are not affected. But choosing instead not to cut out the waste in Medicare could lead to the program running out of money in the future, a situation he said would be even worse for seniors.
"The trick will be to cut the waste without cutting needed services," he said.
Some also assert that the proposed health care legislation is a first step toward "socialized medicine." But Johnson said such claims are off-base.
"True socialized medicine means the government not only finances, but also owns and operates the hospitals; that is not going to happen in this country," Johnson said. "Almost all other industrialized countries have a combination of government regulation and private competition. And that's what the president is more or less advocating."
Johnson said such an approach would be analogous to what is currently seen in the airline industry. While the government heavily regulates the training of pilots and the inspection of planes, the actual business of providing air travel falls on the shoulders of private airline companies.