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Healthcare Q & A

Q & A: The Abortion Compromise

The issue nearly derailed Democrats' efforts to overhaul health care. What are the new rules in the Senate's version of the health care bill?

December 20, 2009|Noam N. Levey | Tribune Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — The abortion issue nearly derailed Senate Democrats' drive to overhaul healthcare. Here is a look at the compromise lawmakers reached.

Would insurance companies still be able to offer abortion coverage?

Yes, but a woman who receives federal subsidies to help her buy coverage and selects a plan that offers abortion services would have to send two checks to the insurance company. One would be placed in an account reserved specifically for abortion coverage.

How is that different from the original bill?

The original bill required women to send just one check, and insurers had to take steps to assure no subsidies, or taxpayer money, were used for abortion services.

Are there any other new requirements for insurance companies?

Insurers that offer plans with abortion services would have to offer a parallel plan with the same benefits, minus abortion coverage.

Would these rules apply to all insurance companies?

They would apply only to plans sold in government-run insurance exchanges, which is where Americans who do not get benefits through their employers could shop for insurance starting in 2014. Many of those consumers probably would be eligible for federal subsidies to help pay premiums. Insurance companies that offer plans through employers still would be free to offer abortion services without any restrictions.

Does this settle the abortion debate as far as healthcare goes?

The House bill includes a more restrictive rule that would prohibit women who receive federal subsidies from buying an insurance plan covering abortion services. Many leading antiabortion groups favor this approach. If the Senate passes a bill this week, the two measures will have to be reconciled in 2010.

noam.levey@latimes.com

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