Thursday, September 24, 2009

US Health Care Reform: Support the Hatch - Enzi Amendments

On September 22, the Senate Finance Committee began markup of its health care reform bill, America’s Healthy Future Act. The bill is written in a descriptive or conceptual form and was introduced by committee chairman Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) as the chairman’s Mark.
Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Michael Enzi (R-WY) have submitted amendments to correct flaws in the chairman’s Mark on abortion and conscience rights. It is especially important that the following amendments be supported:
1. Hatch Amendment #C14: Abortion Funding Prohibition. The Mark authorizes federal tax credit subsidies for private health benefits packages that cover elective abortion. Everyone purchasing such a package would be required to pay a surcharge to help pay for others’ abortions. This is contrary to longstanding federal policy, including the Federal Employees’ Health Benefits Program, where benefits packages with elective abortion may not receive federal support. Hatch Amendment #C14 prohibits federal funds authorized or appropriated in the Mark from being used for abortion and the cost of plans that cover abortion, except to save the mother’s life, or in cases of rape or incest. Insurers wanting to offer broader abortion coverage may do so only in a supplemental policy funded solely by the private premiums of those who choose to purchase it.
2. Hatch Amendment #C13: Nondiscrimination on Abortion. The Mark lacks a provision in current law that prevents government bodies receiving federal funds from discriminating against health care providers who decline involvement in abortion (Weldon Amendment). Hatch Amendment #C13 states that a federal agency or program, or state or local government receiving federal funds under this Act, may not discriminate against individual or institutional health care providers that decline to perform, refer for, or pay for abortion. Identical language has already been approved as part of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s version of the health care reform bill, H.R. 3200.
3. Enzi Amendment #C15: Respect for Moral and Religious Convictions. The Mark does not apply longstanding federal policies on conscience rights in health care to this new program. Enzi Amendment #C15 ensures that governmental bodies receiving funds under this bill may not discriminate against health care providers who do not provide specific items or services to which they have a moral or religious objection. This amendment respects conscience and religious freedom beyond the abortion context. --NCHLA

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