Stupak and Abortion Still a Roadblock for Dems and Health Reform

Feb 24, 2010 6:35pm

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf: Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak, a key moderate Democrat in the House, looked very much in favor of health care reform as he grilled health insurance executives at a House hearing today. But he also said he think abortion language in the President’s health reform proposal is unacceptable. And how Stupak ultimately decides to vote on the President’s plan could have very real consequences for the entire health reform proposal. At the hearing on skyrocketing insurance premiums, Stupak put CEO Angela Braly on the spot. “Do you think you're finally going to get to the point where you're going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg and nobody is going to buy your coverage?” he asked Braly, CEO of WellPoint, which sought to raise individual rates by 39 percent for individual coverage by its Anthem subsidiary in California. “Every family has to make a value judgment – Can I afford it anymore or not?” he said, channeling the frustration of Americans dealing with skyrocketing costs. Earlier, he pointed to WellPoint’s more than $2 billion in profits in 2009. “I don't mind you making a profit,” he told Braly. “But at the end of the year – 2009 was a horrible year – 2 billion – and it’s not enough. “You're killin' the consumer here,” he told the insurance executive. But some Democrats think Stupak is himself the Democrats’ health care reform effort. And his reason has nothing to do with the cost of premiums or universal coverage. It all has to do with abortion. The backbone of both the House and Senate reform bills, which Stupak supports, is a requirement that Americans buy health coverage (with help from the government in many cases). This would greatly expand the pool of people insured. The end result, theoretically, would be much lower health insurance rates. What he doesn’t support is how the Senate bill treats abortion rights. Stupak opposes them and he doesn’t think the President’s proposal, which tracks with language the Senate passed in December, goes far enough to curb federal dollars being spent on abortions. Stupak was instrumental in drafting language for the House reform bill, passed in November, which places tight restrictions on insurance coverage for abortions, essentially outlawing abortion services in the exchanges that reform proponents envision as the way to expand coverage. Anyone receiving any sort of federal subsidy would have to get a second, wholly distinct insurance policy to cover abortion. Abortion rights advocates howled after the bill passed and the language was tempered in the bill passed Christmas Eve by the U.S. Senate. In that version, abortion coverage could be offered in plans on the exchange, but the person getting the plan would have to set up a separate payment mechanism to transmit that section of their premiums. But Stupak said today on Fox News that the Senate compromise is “unacceptable” to him and 15-20 other House Democrats he’s spoken with. Stupak also dislikes a proposed tax on high-cost insurance plans in the White House proposal and Senate bill. He told Fox’s bill Hemmer that he wants to change the language now, before its wrapped into a new bill because he doesn’t think party leaders will allow any amendments on health reform legislation. Stupak forecast a one-off, up or down health reform vote in the House. “It's going to be one bill and you’re going to have one chance, one up or down vote on the total bill. That’s what their telling us. That’s their plan right now.” Said Stupak. “I won’t be able to amend it. We’re going to have to fix the language before the bill ever comes to the floor,” he said.

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