On Fox, Johnson misleads on Senate bill's abortion fee

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. misleadingly reported that the Senate health care reform bill "in certain cases" charges "a one-dollar-per-month, per-enrollee" abortion fee, revising Rep. Bart Stupak's false claim that the bill mandates this fee on all health insurance exchange enrollees. Johnson obscured the fact that the fee -- which is assessed to ensure that no federal funds are used for abortions -- applies only to people who affirmatively choose a health insurance plan that covers abortion over one that does not.

Johnson misleads: Senate bill "says that in certain cases there be a $1 per month, per enrollee" abortion fee

From the March 5 broadcast of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

JOHNSON: Bart Stupak has pointed out, and you guys mentioned it earlier, that at certain pages of the Senate bill -- Pages 2,069 to Pages 2,078 -- it says in certain cases that there be a one-dollar-per-month, per-enrollee contribution to federal reproductive services, which includes abortion. That, in his view and in the view of at least a dozen Democrats, is a violation of the Hyde Amendment.

But fee, which comes from private funds, applies only to those who chose insurance with abortion coverage

ABC's Karl: "[Y]ou only pay the abortion fee if you choose a plan that covers abortion." On the March 4 broadcast of ABC's World News, correspondent Jonathan Karl fact-checked Stupak's claim, which Johnson cited on Fox & Friends, that the Senate health care bill mandated a one dollar abortion fee on each person purchasing insurance through the health exchange. Karl reported that Stupak was "wrong. In fact, you only pay the abortion fee if you choose a plan that covers abortion."

Slate's Noah: Fee is a "separate payment" made to ensure that no federal funds are used to cover abortion. In a March 4 Slate post, Timothy Noah also addressed Stupak's claims about federal funding for abortion in the Senate health care bill, including his claim about a mandatory abortion fee. Noah looked at the pages of the legislation Stupak cited to make this claim and found (emphasis in the original):

Let's go to Page 2069 through Page 2078 of the Senate-passed bill. It says, "If a qualified plan provides [abortion] coverage ... the issuer of the plan shall not use any amount attributable to [health reform's government-funding mechanisms] for purposes of paying for such services." (This is on Page 2072.) That seems pretty straightforward. No government funding for abortions. (Except in the case of rape, incest, or a threat to the mother's life-the same exceptions granted under current law.) If a health insurer selling through the exchanges wishes to offer abortion coverage-the federal government may not require it to do so, and the state where the exchange is located may (the bill states) pass a law forbidding it to do so-then the insurer must collect from each enrollee (regardless of sex or age) a separate payment to cover abortion. The insurer must keep this pool of money separate to ensure it won't be commingled with so much as a nickel of government subsidy. (This is on Pages 2072-2074.)

Slate's Noah: "If an enrollee objects morally to spending one un-government-subsidized dollar to cover abortion," they can choose a plan that "doesn't cover abortions." Noah when on to note that "[i]f an enrollee objects morally to spending one un-government-subsidized dollar to cover abortion, then he or she can simply choose a different health plan offered through the exchange, one that doesn't cover abortions." Noah further noted that "[u]nder the Senate bill, every insurance exchange must offer at least one abortion-free health plan." From Noah's Slate post:

Stupak is right that anyone who enrolls through the exchange in a health plan that covers abortions must pay a nominal sum (defined on Page 125 of the bill as not less than "$1 per enrollee, per month") into the specially segregated abortion fund. But Stupak is wrong to say this applies to "every enrollee." If an enrollee objects morally to spending one un-government-subsidized dollar to cover abortion, then he or she can simply choose a different health plan offered through the exchange, one that doesn't cover abortions. (Under the Senate bill, every insurance exchange must offer at least one abortion-free health plan.)

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform, Reproductive Rights
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Peter Johnson Jr.
Show/Publication
FOX & Friends
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