Unintended consequences?

Shenna Bellows, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, worries that President Obama’s latest effort to pander to conservative critics of his health-care-reform plan will make it harder for women to obtain abortions.

Obama has promised that the legislation he ultimately backs will be abortion-neutral. Federal law already prohibits government funding for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or if the woman’s life is in danger. And regardless of what abortion-rights advocates might wish, it makes sense for Obama not to open up another front in the health-care fight. Among other things, it would be huge if the Catholic bishops could be induced into endorsing health-care reform — and very possible as long as the status quo on abortion is maintained.

But abortion rights certainly should not be cut back. The problem is, Bellows argues (citing a New York Times report), the president’s plan could lead some private insurers to drop abortion coverage that they now provide.

Ironically enough, the possible restriction on abortion rights would be the direct consequence of a public option. One more reason, perhaps, to drop something that, whatever its objective merits, has become little more than a contentious sideshow.

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11 thoughts on “Unintended consequences?

  1. Neil

    “has become little more than a contentious sideshow.”

    I disagree. The consequences of ditching public option are much more extensive. And support for public option runs in the high 70% level in the population notwithstanding opposition by tea party participants and elected officials.

    From a economic perspective public option offers efficiency by putting 97 cents on the dollar toward health services while for-profit health insurance puts only 75-85 cents on the dollar to work for heath service.

    The American taxpayer who will be underwriting health insurance for some <37 million Americans has a strict economic interest in this difference.

    The other aspect of the public option is creating competition to which for-profit insurance must respond, and will lessen the amount of industry regulation that government must apply to keep the greed in check.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      Neil: You quoted me out of context. I wrote that the public option, “whatever its objective merits, has become little more than a contentious sideshow.” It is absolutely clear that a public option cannot pass the Senate, regardless of the fact that it is supported in the House and by a majority of poll respondents. I would like to see a public option. It’s not going to happen.

      Liberals can complain all that they want, but the Senate is part of the process.

  2. Steve Stein

    Dan – “a public option cannot pass the Senate”… because it doesn’t have 60 votes, or because it doesn’t have 50?

    1. Dan Kennedy

      According to Cokie Roberts on “This Week,” it doesn’t have 50 votes. She claims there are about 15 Democrats who won’t vote for a bill with a public option. And, as we know, it might need 60 votes.

  3. Oh, Cokie Roberts, the worst of the worst when it comes to the inside the beltway cocktail crowd … a wank off who probably never had a day when she wasn’t insured to the max or had a kid who was sick and couldn’t take them to see a doctor …

    Without the public option, this reform won’t do anything. We don’t need health care reform – we need health insurance reform. This plan is nothing more than welfare for health insurance companies. All they are proposing is a hyped up version of what Massachusetts has and we all know how well that is going – insiders at insurance companies price fixing, bloated cost overruns so bad that it blew the FY10 budget out of the water and caused the need for new taxes, and very long waits to see doctors for appointments, from what I’m hearing … etc.

    The votes might not be there. But dammit, someone in DC has to stand for something … anything …

  4. Dan Kennedy

    Tony: I’m not a fan of Roberts’ punditry, but she clearly knows how to talk to senators and count votes. She’s far from the only one to report that the numbers aren’t there. Don’t see much reason to attack her.

    Insurance companies can be regulated, you know. That might be a perfectly workable alternative to a public option.

  5. Dan Storms

    Insurance companies can be regulated, it’s true–the Swiss do it and have near-universal coverage at about 1/3 the cost we pay. Pigs might also be genetically modified to fly, an outcome about as likely as insurance regulation from the likes of Max Baucus ($669K in insurance industry contributions in the last decade, nearly $4mil from the health industry overall) and Chuck Grassley ($500K/$2.6mill). As the Supreme Court is set to opine, corporate money is speech, and the health care sector speaks louder than anybody.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      Steve: We’ll see. I doubt it. In any case, I think you’re going to need 60 votes to get it done. And Massachusetts probably won’t even have a second senator to vote “yes,” unfortunately.

  6. Steve Stein

    Yeah, well that’s the Senate rules, right? If Republicans want something done (Bush tax cuts, Medicare “reform” to benefit Big Pharma, etc), they need 50 votes. If Democrats want something done, they need 60.

    What chumps.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      Steve: I don’t think it’s Democratic wimpiness so much as it is genuine disagreements among Democrats — something you don’t see with Republicans.

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