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.
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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.)