Hypocrisy Watch: RNC Insurance Plan Has Covered Abortions for 18 Years
By Steve Benen, Washington Monthly
Posted on November 13, 2009, Printed on November 16, 2009
RNC SUBSIDIZES ABORTIONS FOR 18 YEARS -- AND COUNTING.... The debate over financing of abortions -- the basis for the offensive Stupak amendment -- is all about money being fungible. Amy Sullivan explained the problem nicely recently: "The problem, they say, is that if any insurance plan that covers abortion is allowed to participate in a public exchange, then premiums paid to that plan in the form of taxpayer-funded subsidies help support that abortion coverage even if individual abortion procedures are paid for out of a separate pool of privately-paid premium dollars."
But applying this argument can prove problematic. Focus on the Family, for example, one of the nation's largest religious right organizations and a fierce opponent of abortion rights, has health insurance for its employees through a company that covers "abortion services." The far-right outfit, by its own standards, indirectly subsidizes abortions.
Apparently, the Republican National Committee has the same problem. Politico reported yesterday afternoon that the RNC -- whose platform calls abortion "a fundamental assault on innocent human life" -- gets insurance through Cigna with a plan that covers elective abortion.
The Republicans' health care package has been in place since 1991 -- thanks, Lee Atwater -- meaning that, by the party's own argument, it has been indirectly subsidizing abortions for 18 years.
Complicating matters, Politico found that Cigna offers customers the opportunity to opt out of abortion coverage -- "and the RNC did not choose to opt out."
The Republican National Committee, not surprisingly, scrambled. By last night, it resolved the issue. Sort of.
The Republican National Committee will no longer offer employees an insurance plan that covers abortion after POLITICO reported Thursday that the anti-abortion RNC's policy has covered the procedure since 1991.
"Money from our loyal donors should not be used for this purpose," Chairman Michael Steele said in a statement. "I don't know why this policy existed in the past, but it will not exist under my administration. Consider this issue settled."
Steele has told the committee's director of administration to opt out of coverage for elective abortion in the policy it uses from Cigna.
But does that actually "settle" the matter? The new RNC policy, apparently, is to have insurance through Cigna, opting out of abortion coverage. But let's not lose sight of the original fungibility problem -- the RNC is taking Republican money and giving it to an insurance company through premiums. That company will then use its pool of money to pay for abortion services, not for RNC employees, but for other customers.
In other words, the Republican National Committee will still indirectly subsidize abortions, every time it writes a check to Cigna.
And if the RNC disagrees with this reasoning, and believes the issue is "settled," then the party has rejected the reasoning of the Stupak amendment at a fundamental level.
Steve Benen is "blogger in chief" of the popular Washington Monthly online blog, Political Animal. His background includes publishing The Carpetbagger Report, and writing for a variety of publications, including Talking Points Memo, The American Prospect, the Huffington Post, and The Guardian. He has also appeared on NPR's "Talk of the Nation," MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show," Air America Radio's "Sam Seder Show," and XM Radio's "POTUS '08."