Friday, September 07, 2007

Does WI Right to Life Know Something We Don't?

Throughout the summer, Wisconsin Right to Life has been pushing the line that a health care reform plan like Healthy Wisconsin would increase the number of abortions performed in the state because it follows the covered benefits currently offered to state employees.

In its latest release, titled "Wisconsin Abortions Will Skyrocket Under 'Healthy Wisconsin'!" the group states:
"[S]tate employees currently have what amounts to unrestricted coverage for abortion," said Susan Armacost, Legislative Director for Wisconsin Right to Life. "It is bad enough that Wisconsin taxpayers are currently reimbursing abortionists for the abortions of state employees and their dependents but under 'Healthy Wisconsin' they would be reimbursing them for all abortions in the state and the number of abortions will rise dramatically."
As a state employee, this was news to me, so I grabbed my handy benefits guide for 2007 and looked it up. Here's what I found about abortions in the statement uniform benefits under the "Reproductive Services" section (emphasis mine):
Maternity services for prenatal and postnatal care, including services such as normal deliveries, ectopic pregnancies, Cesarean sections, therapeutic abortions, and miscarriages.
The word "abortion" doesn't appear again in the rest of the statement of benefits. As Cory Liebmann pointed out the other day, only therapeutic abortions -- that is, abortions to preserve the health of the mother -- are covered for state employees.

But, just to be certain, I called my health plan, WPS, to double check. And, yes, only therapeutic abortions are covered; all elective abortions need to be paid out-of-pocket.

So where exactly is Wisconsin Right to Life getting its information?

Thankfully, it appears the abortion line has been a lame duck in the fight against health care reform. Wisconsin Right to Life has been pushing it in press releases since at least June, yet I haven't seen it picked up as a feature story by any major media outlet in the state.

Yet, still, simply flooding the press release sections of WisPolitics and the Wheeler Report with misinformation to further a pet cause at the expense of needed health care reform seems bad enough.

UPDATE (9/9): Rick Esenberg has come across an article that claims the state's Standard Plan that's operated by WPS covers all legal abortions, which is apparently the basis upon which Wisconsin Right to Life was making its claims.

This is worth noting, and I should've done that in the post, but I'm not sure how it really changes my basic point.

That is, the RTL aim is to drum up opposition to Healthy Wisconsin -- along with other reform plans like the WHP -- by making people think that all abortions would be covered by taxpayer money if a plan like that was implemented, which would surely, it argues, result in a sharp increase in the number of abortions performed. And, in the case of at least one person who attended a health care forum in Wausau last week, the line worked.

But I'm wondering if it would've worked so well if Wisconsin Right to Life explained that the Standard Plan is Tier 3 coverage, meaning it's the only option out of twenty-plus plans available to state employees that isn't required to follow the uniform benefits policy. And, as such, the Standard Plan costs state employees $290 more per month than Tier 1 coverage, which is enough to fund one or more elective abortions each year out-of-pocket.

This is important because it explains why the vast majority of state employees -- and state citizens, if the tiering system was implemented on a statewide basis under Healthy WI or the WHP -- don't have the Standard Plan (see UPDATE II below for exact figures). And, since the vast majority don't have the plan, the vast majority don't have access to coverage of elective abortions, which pretty clearly deflates the point RTL is trying to make about the "skyrocketing" effect Healthy Wisconsin would supposedly have on abortions in the state.

But Rick assures us in his post that RTL is a professional group, so I'm sure it won't have a problem clarifying its press releases with this important caveat.

And, what's more -- in the interest of moving the discussion forward rather than dragging it down with misleading sensationalist claims -- the group could also aim its releases at simply asking that all plans under any reform strictly adhere to the state's uniform benefits policy, at least when it comes to abortions, which would assure that only therapeutic abortions are covered.

UPDATE II (9/10): According to ETF figures, 2.6 percent of active state employees -- or 1,773 of 69,413 -- had the Standard Plan in 2006. The other 97.4 percent of state employees only have access to coverage of therapeutic abortions.

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Blogger Rick Esenberg said...

Apparently, in this case, it might.

September 09, 2007  

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