The Senate healthcare bill unveiled Wednesday night by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, is not exactly the cure for all of what ails America.
But the 2,074-page document significantly expands access to medical care for Americans who currently lack coverage, contains a modest public option, bars discrimination by insurers against Americans with pre-existing medical conditions and gets remarkably good marks from the Congressional Budget Office.
In many respects, Reid’s “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” is a better bill than the House measure.
And it one respect, it is dramatically better.
The Senate plan does not contain the draconian “Stupak” language, which was written into the House bill with the intent of establishing radical new limits on access to reproductive health services.
As part of negotiations to secure passage of the House healthcare reform bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, agreed to a vote on an amendment by Congressman Bart Stupak, D-Michigan, that did not merely forbid a government-run “public option” from covering abortion services. It also barred private insurance plans that might participate in the exchange set up by the new program from doing so.
Republicans in the House aligned with 64 Democrats to attach the radical anti-abortion language to the bill, which was then passed by a narrow 220-215 margin.
Reid rejects the Stupak language.
That does not mean that his measure is a pro-choice bonanza.
It preserves existing limits on public-funding of abortions. But, as part of the exchange set up by the bill, families and individuals who participate in the new program could purchase insurance plans that provide abortion coverage.
“We’re basically going to keep current law, which is what we ought to do,” says Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, a pro-choice Democrat who participated in the session where Reid unveiled the Senate measure.
The current law is defined by the Hyde amendment, a measure named for former Illinois Congressman Henry Hyde that was approved in 1976. The Hyde amendment prohibits federal money from paying for abortions except in cases or rape or incest or instances where a woman’s life is endangered.