Most of the Senate debate on the afternoon of December 8 leading up to the rejection of the Nelson-Hatch Amendment was pretty predictable. The amendment itself, after all, was a near cookie-cutter copy of the Stupak Amendment that was passed earlier this month in the House of Representatives. Both amendments prohibit private health insurance plans from offering abortion coverage if just one woman under the plan gets a federal subsidy to help pay her premium. Pro-choice and anti-choice Senators lined up to offer pretty predictable moral arguments.
But then Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland offered a factual tidbit I hadn’t encountered before. Senator Cardin took on the aspect of the Nelson-Hatch Amendment which says women should purchase separate “rider” policies on the private market that cover abortion costs and only abortion costs. Cardin declared in response:
Currently there are five states — Idaho, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Missouri and North Dakota — that only allow abortion coverage through riders. Guess what? The individual market does not accept this kind of a policy. It doesn’t exist!
Benjamin Cardin makes a factual claim worth a check. According to U.S. News and World Report (hardly a bastion of liberalism), this claim checks out:
The National Women’s Law Center has found that while five states already require separate riders for abortion coverage, the riders don’t appear to exist in any insurance plans, public or private, that are offered in these states. Thus, none of the women in these states—North Dakota, Kentucky, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Missouri—appear to have plans that cover abortions.
If insurance companies aren’t actually offering separate abortion insurance riders, it doesn’t seem reasonable to write a health care policy that assumes they exist.