Long before it was on the books, Rep. Michele Bachmann positioned herself as one of the most vocal critics of the new federal health care law.
It remains a signature issue for the 6th Congressional District Republican, and earlier this week she found a new flaw in the law: it could allow the government to limit insurance coverage for births.
“Women have a lot to lose under ‘Obamacare,’” Bachmann said during a March 6, 2012 interview on a Glenn Beck TV program called Real News From the Blaze. Bachmann claimed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “said that it’s important that we have contraceptives because that prevents pregnancy, and pregnancy is more expensive to the federal government.”
“Going with that logic, according to our own Health and Human Services secretary, it isn’t far-fetched to think that the President of the United States could say ‘We need to save health care expenses. The federal government will only pay for one baby to be born in the hospital per family, or two babies to be born per family.’”
Bachmann goes further to say that she does not think President Barack Obama’s administration is considering such caps. But her leap in logic is misleading.
The health care law requires that new private health insurance plans cover an array of preventative care. In 2011, the Institutes of Medicine suggested contraception should be included, which most government plans, including Medicaid, already pay for.
Religiously-affiliated employers, including Catholic hospitals and charities, said paying for contraceptives would violate their beliefs. As a result, the Obama administration ultimately decided that insurers, rather than religiously-affiliated employers, would fully cover contraception.
That means a female professor working at a Catholic university will still have access to free contraception, but her employer won’t have to pay for it.
It is true Sebelius said that contraception could lower the cost of health care by preventing unintended pregnancies.
“Providing contraception as a critical preventative health benefit for women and their children reduces health care costs,” she argued during a House committee hearing on the new contraception rules.
But that’s where Bachmann’s claim gets off track. To say that the contraception policy is just a step away from a government policy that limits births is far-fetched.
The new health care law does not cap insurance for child birth, nor does it give the Obama administration new authority to do so.
Further, the Obama administration has not indicated it wants to change insurance coverage for child birth.
Bachmann spokeswoman Becky Rogness explained in an e-mail that Bachmann’s comments were meant to underscore her concern that Obama has overstepped his authority on the contraception rule.
“There is a fundamental difference between her position, and that of the Obama Administration,” Rogness wrote. “That is, no presidential administration should ever be able to mandate who pays for certain services.”
Bachmann’s statement is carefully worded. She doesn’t go so far as to say that the administration is implementing this policy, only that it could.
But the new health care law does not limit how many births are covered by insurance, nor has the administration in any way indicated that it would ever adopt such a policy in the first place.
Bachmann’s claim is at best misleading.
The Blaze, Bachmann Warns: Feds Could Use Budget to Limit Number of Babies Born per Family, March 6, 2012
The News House, Sebelius Explains White House’s Contraception Compromise, Feb. 10, 2012
Kaiser Family Foundation, Insurance Coverage of Contraceptives, February 21, 2012
YouTube, Sebelius on contraception, March 1, 2012
CNN, Birth control should be fully covered under health plans, report says, by Madison Park, July 19, 2011
Institute of Medicine, Clinical Preventative Services for Women: Closing the Gaps, July 19, 2011
The Kaiser Family Foundation, Summary on New Health Reform Law, accessed March 8, 2012
E-mail exchange, Becky Rogness, spokeswoman, Rep. Michele Bachmann, March 8, 2012