Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stupak Amendment By the Numbers

An excerpt from “A hard choice on health care” by E.J. Dionne Jr., an op-ed columnist for the Washington Post (Nov 12):

Whatever else is true, Stupak's amendment is unlikely to have a significant effect on the availability of abortion. And most abortions are not paid for through health insurance. The Guttmacher Institute, for example, reported that only 13 percent of abortions in 2001 were directly billed by providers to insurance companies.

Like Dionne, many supporters of the Stupak amendment have been downplaying the impact it will have on women overall. They have an affinity for that particular statistic from the Guttmacher Institute, but there are other numbers that are more important in understanding how the Stupak amendment will affect women:

80% is the percentage of consumers participating in the insurance exchange that will have federal subsidies. That is the percentage of customers an insurance company will not be able to sell to if they keep abortion coverage in their plans. The bottom line: most insurers will drop abortion coverage in order to be available to all consumers.

This is also the number of consumers who will be denied access to plans that cover abortions. So even if individuals who do not receive subsidies do not lose any coverage, 80% of consumers in the exchange will not have that coverage. Unless of course, they plan to have an abortion and purchase the rider before needing it.

80-85% is the percentage of private insurers that currently cover abortion care, but will probably drop it if the Stupak amendment passes.

111,000 women is what 13% actually represents.* That is the number that Dionne and others are claiming as insignificant. In reality, the number of women who currently use private insurance to pay for abortions is probably much higher, because, as Dionne mentioned and the Guttmacher Institute stresses, the 13% does not include women who pay for their abortions out of pocket and request reimbursement from insurance. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that this proportion of women is significant due to the nature of the procedure and providers.

The reality is that the Stupak amendment would cause many women to lose abortion coverage that they already have. It represents a very significant change of the status quo. As Nancy Keenan says, “[supporters of the Stupak Amendment] want Roe v. Wade overturned and they want to derail health care reform. That is the strategy.”

Watch her explain how far-reaching the Stupak amendment is on Morning Meeting with Dylan Ratigan:

*This figure was calculated- 13% of 853,485- the number of legal induced abortions reported to the
CDC in 2001.

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