We here at FDL, particularly myself and Jon Walker, have been having an argument with some more establishment figures over the impact of the Stupak amendment. Politifact and others have claimed that the measure would be limited and that coverage of reproductive choice services would not be affected. A new study from George Washington University says they’re wrong.

The analysis from the GW School of Public Health confirms that there would be industry-wide impact to the effective denial of coverage for abortion services inside the exchanges. The key paragraph:

In view of how the health benefit services industry operates and how insurance product design responds to broad regulatory intervention aimed at reshaping product content, we conclude that the treatment exclusions required under the Stupak/Pitts Amendment will have an industry-wide effect, eliminating coverage of medically indicated abortions over time for all women, not only those whose
coverage is derived through a health insurance exchange
. As a result, Stupak/Pitts can be expected to move the industry away from current norms of coverage for medically indicated abortions. In combination with the Hyde Amendment, Stupak/Pitts will impose a coverage exclusion for medically indicated abortions on such a widespread basis that the health benefit services industry can be expected to recalibrate product design downward across the board in order to accommodate the exclusion in selected markets.

This is an confirmation of what we’ve been saying all along – that the insurance industry would reach a tipping point, where it would no longer be financially viable for them to offer abortion coverage in their health plans. Too many segments of the population would be excluded from the coverage, and the tendency to reduce administrative costs by standardizing plans would kick in. Bart Stupak, Chris Matthews, Politifact and the rest may not want to own up to this, but the amendment would, over time, end coverage of reproductive choice services. Period.

Furthermore, the GW study says that supplemental “riders” for abortion services are a non-starter:

In our view, the terms and impact of the Amendment will work to defeat the development of a supplemental coverage market for medically indicated abortions. In any supplemental coverage arrangement, it is essential that the supplemental coverage be administered in conjunction with basic coverage. This intertwined administration approach is barred under Stupak/Pitts because of the prohibition against financial comingling. This bar is in addition to the challenges inherent in administering any supplemental policy.

The analysis adds that insurance companies can be expected to interpret the Stupak amendment broadly, “excluding coverage of not only most medically indicated abortion procedures but also treatments for serious illnesses, injuries, and medical conditions that include an abortion undertaken for health reasons.” In another words, “chemical abortions” or D&E procedures would end up not being covered by any insurance plan, setting up a real barrier for these expensive procedures and severely threatening women’s health.

This is a huge repudiation of the “we’re just following current law” talking point that Stupak has been peddling. According to these experts, it’s bogus. The Stupak amendment would represent the biggest barrier to abortion services since the passage of Roe v. Wade, without question.

UPDATE: Bart Stupak is on Chris Matthews (now there’s a meeting of the minds) and he just said that he hasn’t counted how many members he has to block the bill if his amendment gets stripped. That’s quite an admission. He also said that he’s “willing to look at” the Senate language, which segregates funds. He sounds like he’s taking a hard line, but actually this is quite a retrenchment. I’d like to see him confronted with the GWU study, but certainly Tweety won’t be bringing that knowledge.

…here’s the video of that fascinating exchange: