One Premium, Two Checks: How Abortion Will Be Paid For Under The Nelson Compromise

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In the House health care bill, consumers who receive federal premium subsidies would be forbidden from buying any insurance policy that covers abortion. That provision–the so-called Stupak amendment–threatened to blow up health care reform. Originally, it’s the language Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) wanted to see in the Senate health care bill. In the end, he didn’t get that.

But what he did get might still draw the ire of pro-choice activists and legislators. According to a senior Senate leadership aide, under the Nelson compromise, “[i]ndividuals receiving subsidies will have one premium that they pay with two distinct transactions.”

Put another way: If you’re buying insurance with help from the government, and the policy you want to buy covers abortions, you have to write two checks (or authorize two credit card transactions, etc.) for your plan. If the plan costs $1000 a month, and the insurer plans to sequester $50 to put into a pool that covers abortions, you have to make one payment of $950 and a separate payment of $50.

So far, leading pro-choice Democrats in the Senate say they can abide by that. Here’s Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) Patty Murray (D-WA):

We said all along that we wanted to ensure there was a firewall between private and public funds — this compromise achieves that.

We said we would not accept language that prohibited a woman from using her own private funds for her legal reproductive health care — this compromise meets that test.

And we said we would stop Stupak — which we did. Let’s be clear — we were both much happier with the Capps language and the language in the underlying bill.

But compromise was necessary to get a health care bill for the American people, and this compromise achieves that.

We know that Republicans are already gearing up their opposition to the compromise on pro-life grounds. And Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) may be gearing up to oppose it. But what will other pro-life and pro-choice Dems in the House say? We’ll let you know as reactions crystallize.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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