The health-insurance nationalization bill that passed the House Saturday night has a lot of enemies. One reason for this is that in order to get a majority to support the bill, House Speaker Pelosi had to accept an amendment by Rep. Bart Stupak that would ban tax-funded abortions (except for rape, incest and danger to the mother’s life) under the “public option.” It would also bar people who get government insurance subsidies from buying policies with abortion coverage. However, AP reports: “Under the Stupak amendment, people who do not receive federal insurance subsidies could buy private insurance plans in the exchange that includes abortion coverage. People who receive federal subsidies could buy separate policies covering only abortions if they use only their own money to do it.”
To all those people who are upset by the amendment, I say: That’s what you get for inviting government to become involved in a personal matter like medical care.
But there’s a more fundamental point: How can there be such a thing as insurance coverage for elective abortions? Insurance emerged to protect one’s financial well-being against unlikely catastrophic happenings (as Thomas Szasz likes to call things that befall people). But an elective abortion (whatever your position on the issue) is not a happening. It’s a volitional act (which follows previous volitional act). How does a company insure against a volitional act? It can’t, but that doesn’t mean firms which we call insurance companies aren’t willing to appear to cover abortion by collecting payments from customers in advance. They are happy to do so, but only under the right circumstances. The key factor is that someone other than the insured person, such as an employer, must be willing to pay the premium. Of course when an employer pays the premium he reduces the employee’s cash wages, but most employees don’t understand that. So they think their insurance is paid for by someone else. But if the employee had to pay for her own insurance against elective abortion, I suspect she wouldn’t think it worth the price. That’s because the premium would consist of prepayment for possible future services plus costly administrative overhead. It would be a bad deal. What would she do if she decided she wanted an abortion? She’d pay out of savings or borrow the money. Insurance is a costly way to pay for things you (and the insurance company) know you may choose to buy one day.