Friday, November 13, 2009

Stupak Inconsistency

I recognize that my ideas on health care, coming from my educational and work background, would have been far more interesting and useful to readers two years ago. Now we are deluged with health care information, and Congress is churning out thousands of pages of bills and amendments, which is too much for me to process and evaluate. There are great resources out there, such as Ezra Klein's blog, NPR, and so forth. I am trying to find my utility.

Anyhow, for today, a hot topic is that the Republicans just realized that they've been paying premiums to Cigna for 18 years that cover abortions, and they're going to stop. They say that abortion is evil. Enough Americans agree with that that some Democrats jumped on board and we got the Stupak amendment. Here's a quote from the site I linked to above:

"The Stupak amendment, named for sponsor Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), was adopted by the House before it passed the health care bill on Saturday night. It prohibits a government-backed health care plan from offering abortion services and bans the use of federal subsidies for individuals to buy into health care plans that provide abortion coverage. "

The ridiculousness of this, as was pointed out by Ezra Klein (I don't know that I would have caught this), is that the government heavily subsidizes health insurance plans that cover abortions. It does this by not taxing employer-provided insurance. People who get insurance from work are getting cheap insurance in part because of the government's decision not to tax the insurance costs as income (and also because of negotiating leverage depending on the employer's size).

I pay for my insurance individually. This means that I pay taxes on my income, then spend my income on insurance. I can still afford insurance because I have a very basic plan and I am not "poor". Many people who do not get insurance from work are poor and need more comprehensive insurance plans. Many of these people need government subsidies in order to have insurance. We already know that it is important to insure everyone to keep costs down because the uninsured get expensive ER care instead of cheaper basic care and prevention. The Stupak amendment is only hurting poor people's ability to choose insurance plans that cover abortion. This group is easily the most important group to provide that choice to.

Obviously, deontologists who think abortion is evil will try to make abortions impossible, even though unwanted pregnancies lead to all kinds of personal and societal problems such as child abuse, neglect, mental illness, delinquency, and crime, which all cost the people involved and our whole country billions of dollars, happiness, and function. So why aren't these same Stupak supporters clamoring to end the tax exemption on employer-provided insurance that covers abortions?

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