Secrecy Clause Plays Santa Claus to Abortion Crowd
Don't expect Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Congressman John Shimkus (R-Ill.) to be sharing a cup of Christmas wassail anytime soon. The two leaders got into a heated exchange during the HHS chief's latest turn in the House's witness chair. In a scene eerily similar to October 30 when Sebelius first testified, Shimkus pressed the ObamaCare boss to come clean on taxpayer-funded abortion.
"Madame Secretary, you promised last time you were here that you would provide me a national list of those [plans] who cover and those who do not cover abortion and abortion services. We have yet to receive that list," he said. "All we're asking is for you to keep your promise." An irritable Sebelius fired back, "Sir, it is on the website." What she didn't say is that customers have to buy their insurance plans before they find it. The process is so convoluted that Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.) had to introduce a bill just to guarantee that Americans knew what kind of procedures they were paying for. "It was incredibly confusing, if not impossible, to find out," Smith told reporters last week. Even Congress, with great resources at its disposal, couldn't get to the bottom of their insurance benefits. "That is what's happening in state after state. People cannot find out if plans on the exchange include abortion."
Michigan has just the solution: opting out of the abortion coverage altogether. This week, state leaders agreed that the people of Michigan shouldn't have to foot the bill for someone else's abortion -- or anyone's for that matter. Governor Rick Snyder (R), who vetoed the same measure last year, will have a tough time objecting this time around, especially with such lopsided votes in the statehouse. If the policy stands up, Michigan will become the 24th state to ban abortion from the state exchange -- building the pressure for the other half of the country to do the same.
For now, expanding taxpayer-funded abortion may be the only ObamaCare goal the President has reached. Based on the latest numbers, the government is 70% behind on enrollments for the federal exchange. According to the official ticker, just 365,000 people (almost a third of them from California) have signed up for ObamaCare since it launched (And even that's a generous number since that no one knows how many have actually paid!) Several states are still woefully behind, with Oregon bringing up the caboose at a measly 44 applicants.
Of course, the government knows as well as we do, that it's only a matter of time before more Americans lose their insurance and have no place else to turn. And there's the irony. The President demanded this law to help the "49 million" uninsured -- and by passing it, 80 million will be worse off! But to hear Sebelius tell it, losing your insurance is the best thing that could happen to a person. Not everyone is unhappy that their plans are cancelled, Sebelius told members yesterday.
Well, they will be once they see the alternative. Not so fast. If you thought ObamaCare was unpopular before, wait until Americans experience the deductible sticker shock. On the cheapest option the exchange offers, the Bronze plan, the lowest deductible is $5,081 a year. As the Wall Street Journal explains, that's a 42% increase over the average $3,589 pre-ObamaCare deductible. To put it in perspective, Leslie Scism and Tim Martin use this example. "The patient's typical share of having a baby through normal delivery -- $6,150... would be almost entirely an out-of-pocket expense for a person holding the bronze policy [with the $5,081 deductible]." The patients' portion is so high that many Americans won't be able to afford it. The only other option is buying a more expensive plan with a lower deductible, but either way, policy-holders are paying more.
"The anger is going to grow," warns Jamie Court of Consumer Watchdog, "because people are really stretched to buy these policies, then they're going to have to reach into their pocket for another five grand before it does anything for them." It all adds up to a health insurance powder keg, where the people who need insurance will buy it -- and the people who don't (like younger, healthier Americans) won't. In the end, it's an unsustainable system. But then, that's what conservatives have said all along.
Have Yourself a Marry Little Christmas...
The White House is already using the IRS to punish conservatives -- and Senator Mike Lee isn't waiting for churches to be next. Today, the Utah Senator took the first step in protecting people and organizations who disagree with the administration's radical definition of marriage. Under his new bill, the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, Americans wouldn't have to fear the government's retaliation for holding a view on marriage that every major religion shares.
In just the last few months, people have watched in horror as state governments, courts, and human rights commissions have tried to take away the safety and livelihood of citizens whose only crime is trying to exercise their First Amendment rights on marriage. While Americans continue to debate the issue of marriage and what its public purpose should be, the federal government shouldn't be in the business of harassing those who define marriage the same way most states (35) do. "It is concerning that we have people in this administration who think religious liberties are just not that big of a deal." In a jab at the President's promise to protect religious liberty, Sen. Lee says it's time to put our legislation where the White House's mouth is. "We need not just statements, but we need legislation to protect religious liberty from this kind of potential threat."
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) also weighed in, explaining that the Lee bill would "protect groups from administrative attacks, such as additional hurdles with taxes or obtaining federal grants or contracts." Regardless of where members stand on marriage, they should all agree that Americans on both sides deserve to be treated with respect. For now, at least 12 do: Sens. Lee, Vitter (R), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Pat Roberts (R-Kans.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). Contact your senators and encourage them to join them!
Mythbusters: Stem Cell Edition!
We live in an era of medical transformation. We've almost gotten complacent about hearing of medical breakthroughs that would have stunned our grandparents. Yet even with astonishing treatments becoming almost commonplace, we're still just at the dawn of new day in medicine. Adult stem cells "maintain and repair the tissue in which they are found." They can be derived from many parts of the body, from the umbilical cord to bone marrow. FRC's Dr. David Prentice has documented more than 75 diseases and conditions being treated successfully through adult stem cell therapy.
It's because of that good news Dr. Prentice presented the convincing case for ethical stem cell research yesterday at FRC. Dr. Prentice, recognized as one of the world's leading cell biologists, described why destroying human embryos to obtain stem cells is both wrong and, from a strictly medical perspective, unnecessary and ineffective. Instead, as Dr. Prentice said during his talk, "successful, ethical adult stem cells work." Watch his presentation (below), "Stem Cells: Fact v. Fiction," and marvel at how God has made us "fearfully and wonderfully," and how we can join top-quality medical research and treatment with deep respect for the sanctity of life from conception onward.
** It was the "selfie" heard 'round the world, and today, FRC's Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison talk about the impact of the President's picture in this new column for the Christian Post.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.