(CNSNews.com) – Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), a strong abortion rights advocate, has finally admitted what the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops have been saying all along – that the abortion “compromise” that Boxer helped fashion in the Senate health-care bill is little more than an accounting trick designed to elicit the bill’s passage.
Despite a receiving a tidal wave of criticism for her role in the compromise, McClatchy News Service reported before the final Christmas Eve vote that Boxer had told them the compromise was “only an ‘accounting procedure’ that will do nothing to restrict (insurance) coverage” of abortion.
“I don’t like it either, but this was the only way to get the bill passed,” Boxer told McClatchy.
Boxer reportedly hammered out the deal with moderate Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) in marathon-closed door negotiations on Dec. 19, with the help of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and White House aide Jim Messina.
After a long day of negotiation, the group finally came to a deal that was palatable to the parties at the table. Their compromise, passed in the final Senate version of the bill, allows insurers in the exchange to provide abortions if they charge a fee that is kept segregated from federal subsidies. It also ensures that at least one insurer provides no abortion coverage, but allows individual states to opt out of allowing any in the exchange to do so.
Under this plan, subsidies given to low-income patients would theoretically not be used to pay directly for an abortion, but those taxpayer dollars would still subsidize the general operations of insurers and doctors that do provide abortion coverage and services.
The result of the deal, however, was outrage from both sides of the abortion debate.
Abortion advocate Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), in an op-ed for CNN, criticized the compromise as an “onerous” provision “intended to appeal to anti-abortion forces.”
The National Institute for Reproductive Health released a statement after the compromise saying the group was “horrified” with the outcome.
“Sadly, this health care reform bill -- which held such promise to do such good --has sold out women and, by virtue of its dismissive treatment of women, awakened a sleeping giant,” the abortion activist group complained.
Even Planned Parenthood Federation of America -- a Boxer ally -- said it “strongly” opposed the bill with its new abortion language.
“It is a sad day when women’s health is traded away for one vote,” PPFA President Cecile Richards said at the time.
Pro-life groups, meanwhile, who were even more outraged, with their assessments were much closer to Boxer’s own description of the provision as an “accounting procedure” that left government-funded abortion in the bill.
The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) highlighted that federal money would still be going to plans covering abortion, and might also siphon money from people in the plan with no intention of ever having such a procedure.
“(T)he Senate bill would result in a situation in which private plans that cover elective abortion would qualify for the federal subsidy,” wrote Executive Director David O’Steen, “but every enrollee in such a plan would find himself or herself subject to a requirement that he or she make a separate monthly payment into a fund used exclusively for elective abortions – an ‘abortion surcharge,’ if you will.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also pointed out that more money would flow to abortion-covering private plans as a result of the new policy, backing Boxer’s assertion that it was simply an accounting quirk that was as much a matter of semantics as it was substantive.
Led by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston, Tex., the group of Catholic leaders said: “Further, the government agency that currently manages health coverage for federal employees will promote and help subsidize multi-state health plans that include elective abortions, contrary to longstanding law governing this agency.”
(DiNardo was referring to the Office of Personal Management, which would administer the plans under the Senate version of the bill.)
Boxer and another abortion-rights supporter, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), released a joint statement the day of the compromise, maintaining that the new provision technically kept the firewall between public and private funds for abortions. But, they said, “compromise was necessary to get a health care bill for the American people, and this compromise achieves that.”
The actual text of Senate Majority leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) nearly 400-page Manager’s Amendment, a list of last-minute changes to the bill, has this to say about the separation of funds (pp. 40-42):
“In the case of a plan which subparagraph (A) applies (which covers abortions), the issue of the plan shall --
(i) collect from each enrollee in the plan (without regard to the enrollee’s age, sex, or family status) a separate payment for each of the following:
"(I) an amount equal to the portion of the premium to be paid directly by the enrollee for coverage under the plan of services other than services described in paragraph (1)(B)(i) (after reduction for credits and cost-sharing reduction described in subparagraph (A)); and (II) an amount equal to the actuarial value of the coverage of services described in paragraph (1)(B)(i), and (ii) shall deposit all such separate payments into separate allocation accounts as provided in subparagraph (C )
"(C ) SEGREGATION OF FUNDS—(i) IN GENERAL – The issue of a plan to which subparagraph (A) applies shall establish allocation accounts described in clause (ii) for enrollees receiving amounts described in subparagraph (A). (ii) ALLOCATION ACCOUNTS – The issuer of a plan to which subparagraph (A) applies shall deposit—(I) all payment described in subparagraph (B)(i)(I) into a separate account that consists solely of such payments and that is used exclusively to pay for services other than other than services described in subparagraph (1)(B)(i); and (II) all payments described in subparagraph (B)(i)(II) into a separate account that consists solely of such payments and that is used exclusively to pay for services described in paragraph (1)(B)(i)."