House Minority Leader John Boehner's claim that the Senate health reform bill would force users of the public health care system to pay a "monthly abortion premium" is "as ridiculous as it is inaccurate," the Democratic Party says.
Boehner, the ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, wrote on the GOP Leader Blog Thursday that "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s ... massive, 2,074-page bill would levy a new 'abortion premium' fee on Americans in the government-run plan."
Boehner's statement says:
What is even more alarming is that a monthly abortion premium will be charged of all enrollees in the government-run health plan. It’s right there beginning on line 11, page 122, section 1303, under “Actuarial Value of Optional Service Coverage.” The premium will be paid into a U.S. Treasury account – and these federal funds will be used to pay for the abortion services.
The Democratic National Committee reacted with a fierce denial of the claim -- a copy of which was obtained by Ben Frumin at TalkingPointsMemo -- saying that Boehner's assertion is "as ridiculous as it is inaccurate":
...Boehner falsely stated that the Senate health reform bill would lead to a "monthly abortion fee" - a notion as ridiculous as it is inaccurate. In fact, the Senate bill specifically states that insurance plans will not be allowed to offer abortion services without proof that "no federal funds are used for such coverage." And as Roll Call reported today, under Senator Reid's plan abortions will not be paid for with federal taxes and public insurance plans will only pay for abortions "...if the money could be segregated so no federal tax dollars are used for the services."
The DNC added this dig: "With such clear evidence to the contrary, we'd like to believe that this is the last time we'll hear this scare-tactic from Boehner and the Party of NO... but since all Republicans have to offer are more lies, we're not counting on it."
The section of the health bill in question, which can be found beginning on page 122 of the document (PDF), states in general terms how the HHS secretary is to determine premiums to customers for optional coverage.
The section of the bill Boehner referred to reads: "The Secretary ... may take into account the impact on overall costs of the inclusion of such coverage ... [and] shall estimate such costs as if such coverage were included for the entire population covered; and ... may not estimate such a cost at less than $1 per enrollee, per month."
Thus it would appear, on first reading, that the bill requires the HHS secretary to estimate the costs of optional abortion coverage as if all customers of the public health plan were receiving the coverage, and has to charge no less than one dollar per "enrollee" -- though it was not immediately clear whether "enrollee" referred to anyone on the public plan -- which would strengthen Boehner's argument -- or whether it refers only to those enrolled to receive optional abortion coverage, which would strengthen the Democrats' position.
According to Christina Bellatoni at TPMDC, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blasted Boehner's claim:
Reid's office says "no one will be forced to enroll in a plan that covers abortion services," and the bill requires each state's public plan make available at least one plan that won't cover abortion, a guarantee that pro-life customers can buy a policy that does not offer abortion coverage.
Reid's office says the bill requires private plans to segregate federal subsidies from private premium dollars to ensure that only private premium dollars may be used for abortions beyond those currently permitted.
But the strong denials from the Democratic camp didn't stop Boehner's assertion from making the rounds of conservative media Thursday. As media watchdog MediaMatters reported, radio host Rush Limbaugh read Boehner's statement "verbatim" on the air.
News reports on Thursday indicated that the Senate health bill -- which Boehner will not have a vote on, as he is in the House of Representatives -- could come to a vote as early as Saturday evening.