Planned Parenthood's "Blogger Bee" about the Stupak Amendment

Today, Planned Parenthood is organizing a “National Day of Action” to inform people about the Stupak Amendment and to lobby the Senate for health care reform that ensures women’s access to reproductive health care. Their bullet points below very clearly (finally!) outline how exactly the Stupak Amendment would affect women’s lives and health (because let’s face it, when you hear “The Exchange” and “affordability credits” and “subsidies” mentioned vaguely in the news, it goes in one ear and out the other). So if you’re a woman or you care about one (i.e. everyone) then take a minute to familiarize yourself with this important — and frightening — info. [Our own added notes are in brackets below.] You can also quickly contact your Senator and find other ways easy ways to take action here:

The Bottom Line

  • Essentially the amendment violates the underlying principle of health care reform, as articulated by President Obama, that no one will lose the benefits the currently have.
  • Under the Stupak amendment, millions of women would lose benefits that they currently have and millions more would be prohibited from getting the kind of private sector health care coverage that most women have today.
  • Millions of women would lose private coverage for abortion services and millions more [i.e. unsubsidized women with health insurance plans in the exchange] would be prohibited from buying it even with their own money.
  • Women’s access to private coverage for abortion would be severely restricted by health care reform.

The New Health Insurance Exchange

  • The new health insurance exchange is intended to provide a new source of affordable, quality coverage for the roughly 46 million uninsured Americans and the millions more whose current coverage is unaffordable or inadequate.
  • The House bill is expected to cover 96 percent of all uninsured Americans by offering subsidies for private coverage or the choice of a public plan. Depending on their income level and the final package approved by Congress, individuals would receive subsidies on a sliding scale to purchase private insurance through the exchange.
  • Not everyone in the exchange would have subsidized coverage — a significant portion of people (for instance, those currently purchasing in the individual market and those working for small businesses) who would buy insurance in the exchange would not receive any subsidies, also known as affordability credits.

The Stupak Amendment

  • The Stupak amendment prohibits any coverage of abortion in the public option and prohibits anyone receiving a federal subsidy from purchasing a health insurance plan that includes abortion. It also prohibits private health insurance plans from offering through the exchange a plan that includes abortion coverage to both subsidized and unsubsidized individuals.
  • The Stupak amendment purports to allow women to purchase a separate, single-service “abortion rider,” but abortion riders don’t exist.
  • Women are unlikely to think ahead to choose a plan that includes abortion coverage, since they do not plan for unplanned pregnancy. [Em & Lo note: They buy health insurance with the expectation that their various medical needs (which include legal reproductive care) will be covered, just as homeowners and renters buy insurance with the expectation that various disasters (fire, theft, fallen trees) will be covered. Insisting women buy abortion riders would be like men having to buy prostate cancer riders.]
  • Realistically, the actual effect of the Stupak amendment is to ban abortion coverage across the entire exchange, for women with both subsidized and unsubsidized coverage.

Who Would Be Covered in the Exchange?

  • Most immediately, the exchange would offer coverage to many of the 17 million women, 18–64, who are uninsured. It would also be a source of coverage for the 5.7 million women who are now purchasing coverage in the individual market.
  • In most of these cases, women will lose abortion coverage that they currently have — in the current private insurance market, the majority of health insurance plans include abortion.
  • Example: Currently, a self-employed graphic designer or writer, buying coverage from Kaiser Permanente in the individual market, likely has abortion coverage. Under the health reform plan amended by Stupak, she would purchase that same plan from Kaiser Permanente in the exchange, but it would not include abortion coverage because it would be barred. This ban would be in effect even if she were paying the full premium. Similarly, a woman working for a small graphic design firm, who currently has abortion coverage through her company’s plan, would lose it under reform if the company decides to seek more affordable coverage in the exchange.
  • Roughly 60 million women, 18–64, get their coverage through their employer or through their spouse’s employer. For some of these women, nothing will change immediately. But if current trends continue in the erosion of employer-sponsored health care, more and more women will be getting their health care through the exchange where abortion coverage is prohibited.

For more info and clarity, check out Planned Parenthood’s Health Reform section.


photo of the Capitol Building dome interior (looking kind of like a pack of birth control pills) by opalsson