I listened to the health care debate in Congress on and off today while driving around to soccer fields and the mass flu vaccination site, and for the last hour I've had c-span on while sorting my clothes. Although I know that there's still a long while to go before we actually get a law, and this bill is truly an act of sausage making, I'm still fascinated by the process.
Wow, the margin is a lot closer than I would have guessed-- they've got exactly the 218 votes needed, with only one D not yet recorded. I'll be interested to see how many of the Dems voting no are on the left.
So, the big news of the evening was probably the passage of the Stupak amendment, which says that any insurance plan purchased through the "exchange" can't cover abortion. My understanding is that this would NOT affect coverage under employer-provided insurance. When I looked into this last year, I found out that about half of employer-provided plans do cover abortions.
I think this is bad policy, for precisely the same reason that I think the Hyde amendment, which bans coverage of abortion under Medicaid, is bad policy. It pushes abortions into the second trimester, which is more dangerous and more expensive. But I'm not particularly surprised by it. Fundamentally, I'd rather health insurance reform that didn't cover abortion than no health insurance reform. And with such a thin margin, I'm not sure Pelosi had a choice.
The cynic in me wonders if maybe more of the public will holler when it's their insurance that is affected, not just poor women's coverage.
Update: I listened to this NPR story on the Stupak amendment on my way home tonight, and now I'm even more confused. They say that it doesn't prevent the exchange from including plans that cover abortion (although insurers would have to offer plans that were otherwise identical but didn't cover abortion) as long as you're paying with only your own money and don't receive a tax subsidy for the insurance.
So what I'm confused about is what are the rules for employer-provided insurance, which is also tax-subsidized. Is it covered by the Stupak amendment? Or are they pretending that employer-provided insurance isn't subsidized by taxpayers?
Update 2: Nice analysis of the D's who voted no from the NY Times.