Sen. Coburn: ‘I Don’t Think We Ought to Take Tax Money from Americans to Cover Any Health Care’

By Karen Schuberg | December 16, 2009 | 7:11 PM EST

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) (Photo courtesy of Coburn's Web site)

Washington ( – Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a pro-life advocate in the Senate, said he doesn’t “think we ought to take tax money from Americans to cover any health care” whether it involves abortion or not, and that the problem with the health care system is that the government is already too involved.
As currently written, the Senate health-care bill mandates that at least one health insurance plan available through the government exchange where people getting tax subsidies to buy health insurance will be required to buy insurance must provide abortion coverage. asked Coburn, who is also a physician: “Do you think it is morally right to take tax money from pro-life Americans and give it to health plans that cover abortion?”
Coburn said: “I don’t think we ought to take tax money from Americans to cover any health care. So it doesn’t matter whether it’s about abortion or not. That’s why we’re in trouble. You know, 60 percent of the health care is run by the government. We have inflation twice what it used to be.”
The Senate health care plan, the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” would require that all Americans buy health insurance and that Americans earning up to 400 percent of the poverty level--which would be $88,200 for a family of four this year--will get federal subsidies to help them buy insurance.

As the bill is written, tax subsidies will go to insurance plans that cover elective abortions. The bill includes a section headlined “Assured Availability of Varied Coverage Through Exchanges.” In this section, on p. 120 of the 2,074-page legislation, it requires the secretary of Health and Human Services to ensure that at least one health insurance plan offered in government-regulated insurance exchanges--where people will be able to purchase health insurance using government subsidies--must provide coverage of abortion. 

The secretary also must make certain that at least one plan available in the exchanges does not cover abortions.

The relevant language says: “The Secretary shall assure that with respect to qualified health plans offered in any Exchange established pursuant to this title -- (I) there is at least one such plan that provides coverage of services described in clauses (i) and (ii) of subparagraph (B); and (II) there is at least one such plan that does not provide coverage of services described in subparagraph (B)(i)."

The clause “(i)” of “subparagraph (B)” referred to in this passage defines those types of abortions currently banned from receiving federal funding under the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment bans federal funding for all abortions except those done in cases of rape, incest and a threat to the life of the mother.

The language of the Senate’s health care bill mandates that at least one health insurance plan available to people buying health insurance with federal subsidies cover those abortions that are currently prohibited from receiving federal funding under the Hyde Amendment.

On Tuesday, Dec. 8, the Senate voted 54-45 to table – to end consideration of and thus kill -- an amendment by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) that would have essentially applied the Hyde Amendment language to the Senate health care bill. And, like the amendment by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) in the House of Representatives, which passed in that chamber, Nelson’s proposal would have explicitly prohibited any federal money from paying for any part of a health insurance plan that covers abortion.

Seven Democrats and 38 Republicans voted against tabling Nelson’s amendment while 52 Democrats and two Republicans voted for tabling the amendment and thus ending it.

Coburn voted against tabling the Nelson amendment.