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Oregon Senate Votes for Free Abortion Coverage

In a 17-13 vote Wednesday, the Oregon Senate approved a measure that would require state health insurance companies to cover abortions and other reproductive services free of charge regardless of the patient’s income, citizenship status, or “gender identity.” The bill, which heads to the governor’s desk, would also allot nearly $500,000 to expand coverage for abortions and other reproductive services to illegal immigrants ineligible for Medicaid. If signed into law, the measure, which provides an exemption for employers with religious objections to providing abortion coverage, would give everyone in Oregon access to these types of reproductive services even if Obamacare is repealed. Oregon is the only state that has no restrictions on abortion.

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New Healthcare Bill Goes Against Employee Privacy Rights

Under the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act filed this month by North Carolina Congressman Virginia Foxx, employers would offer genetic testing as part of a voluntary workplace wellness program. Employees who agree to genetic testing and share results with the company would then save up to 30 percent on their workplace health insurance. Those who decline to participate in the testing because it invades privacy rights would not get a discount and thus would end up paying more for their health insurance. Currently, federal law protects genetic privacy and nondiscrimination. Nearly 70 organizations are fighting the bill. The bill is currently under review by the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee.

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Contraceptive Drugs Coverage (SB 1142 / HB 721)


Requires that every group health insurance policy, to the extent not preempted by federal law, have coverage for all contraceptive drugs and devices approved by the FDA.


This is very similar to the Obamacare mandate on contraception, which resulted in a lawsuit from the Little Sisters of the Poor. The bill does offer a mild religious liberty exception but requires an organization to file for a religious exemption (subject to approval) and offer written notice to prospective enrollees.


Kyle in the Senate, Powell in the House


Full Text: Senate Bill / House Bill


No action taken in the House or Senate.

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Insure Tennessee’s Three-Ring Circus

The debate on Gov. Haslam’s proposal to expand health insurance coverage through the authorization provided by Obamacare began and ended this week. There seemed to be three primary themes to the debate, just as there are three rings under the big top. And just like the big top, one ring took center stage.

No doubt, for many the debate was about how to provide health care services to the working poor, determined to be those earning between 100 and 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Personally, I don’t think anyone in the legislature is unconcerned about access to deliver quality health care to those who struggle to afford it. But in the first “ring” were those who think the answer is civil government.

In the second ring were health care providers, hospitals in particular, who made a deal with the federal government in connection with the passage of Obamacare. The deal was that they would give up certain payments to care for the poor in exchange for more of those poor being covered by insurance through which they would then get paid.

The part of the Obamacare law that took away their money is still law. Unfortunately for them, the Supreme Court upset the applecart when it said states didn’t have to expand coverage. The combination was, for them, a lose-lose result. To be honest, for a number of those in this ring, the issue was, quite understandably, a matter of finding a way to get the money they’d made a deal to get and had lost.

The third ring was composed of those who were opposed to Insure Tennessee. But within this ring were all kinds of “performers.”

There were those who saw this as “Obamacare” and they weren’t going to be for anything that might come remotely close to making it look like they were somehow part of Obamacare. The political coattails from the President’s hospital gown flowed long and wide for them. And within this group were those who were never going to trust an oral promise from the you-can-keep-your-insurance-if-you-like-it administration that we could get out of the program if we wanted to.

Then there were those who thought we could get a “better deal” from the federal government than what the Governor had secured and those who wanted to wait to see whether Congress or the Supreme Court pulled up the Obamacare tracks on which Insure Tennessee was to run.

Others heard this as the second stanza of Governor Ned McWherter’s swan song in the early ‘90s, the original expansion of health insurance coverage beyond the Medicaid population known as TennCare. They had been there and gotten the “Axe the (income) Tax” T-shirt to prove it. Once was quite enough for them.

And lastly, there were those who simply didn’t think providing health insurance is within the function, scope, or competencies of civil government. For them, it was kicking the can down the road of needing to get civil government out of the health care business as much as possible.

In talking to those in this last group, I don’t think they failed to appreciate the immediate “pain” that some hospitals are experiencing or that some poorer individuals are feeling; they just thought Insure Tennessee was a short-term solution that would lead to greater pain down the road. Perhaps it was, for them, what I often heard during the TennCare-generated income tax battles toward the turn of the century, “When you’re in a hole, stop digging.”

In any event, at the end of the day, those in the third ring took center stage and closed down the show. Now the legislature will get back to its regularly scheduled business. In other words, the circus will be back in town again next week.

So don’t stop paying attention to what our legislators will be doing. And attending one of our State Legislative Issue Briefings over the next few weeks is a great way to do just that.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Medicaid Expansion: Two Issues Legislators Should Consider

This week the Governor put the question of expanding the traditional Medicaid program squarely on the table for our legislators to debate next month. He is asking for a special session of the legislature to focus on this one issue. I applaud the heart behind his proposal, but as we apply our heads to it, I’d like to suggest we debate some things beyond just the elements of the proposal itself.

The proposal, as I understand it, is an attempt to provide health insurance coverage to what we might call the “working poor.” While we can debate the difference between absolute and relative poverty, at least we are not talking about something that’s purely a “hand out.”

Those who would be covered would be earning some income, so they are in the workforce. And the proposal would try to put those to whom it would apply into the private sector insurance market and require some element of co-pays for services. Those elements are commendable.

It is also commendable that Gov. Haslam has a heart for those who are economically challenged and may struggle with affording some basic level of health care. It is “morally right,” to use an expression the Governor used, to care about the well-being of our fellow citizens.

But if all the legislature debates is whether it is “morally right” to care for our fellow citizens and the “mechanics” of the proposal, it will miss the opportunity to have a much-needed debate at a much deeper level than we’ve had in our state and nation in a long time. Let me suggest just two fundamental matters that should be debated.

The first major issue we’ve ignored since the New Deal, if not before, is to whom the moral duty to care for our neighbor falls in a civil society made up of individuals, families, private associations, and civil government. Historically, we have said it was the moral responsibility of individuals, families, and private associations.

For instance, years ago, in my hometown of Chattanooga, individuals and their families who saw a need to care for those with physical and mental challenges came together and out of their own resources established two wonderful institutions that still exist, Siskin Hospital and Orange Grove. You may know of such organizations in your own community.

If we stop to think about it, care for the poor is essentially an act of either mercy or grace. Civil government is an instrument of law. Are we willing to debate whether an instrument of law can be an effective instrument of mercy or grace without eventually destroying both law and mercy and grace?

Under the guise of grace and mercy, law can become an instrument of injustice by taking from some to give to others. Respect for the law is lost and then law becomes an instrument of plunder, not protection. Of course, taking from some to give to others might help the other person in the short run, but it will not make the person from whom money is taken gracious or merciful. In fact, it might just make them resentful and more callous toward the poor, hurting them in the long run.

Lastly, even if we are not willing to reopen debate on this issue, there is the issue of debt. If we’re going to talk about what is morally right, then we must talk about the fact that our federal government is printing and borrowing money it doesn’t really have to pay for this expansion.

So the question for debate is whether it is morally right for our state to be part of expanding a federal debt. In asking this question, I’m thinking of two things Solomon said. First, that a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children (Proverbs 13:22), and second that the borrower is the slave of the lender (Proverbs 22:7).

We will leave an inheritance to our children’s children; the only question in this regard is whether it is morally right to leave them an inheritance of even greater debt with its corresponding loss of freedom.

There are other issues that come to mind, but if our legislators will take up just these two issues, we will be better served. It might even make a special session really special.

Related Video:

David Fowler Explains the Future of Medicaid Expansion

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

FACT-RSS-Blog-Icon-small Get David Fowler’s Blog as a feed.

Invite David Fowler to speak at your event