Abortion once again nearly derailed the Democratic drive to overhaul the nation's health care system. Here are some answers to questions about the compromise that broke the deadlock.
Q. Would insurance companies still be able to offer abortion coverage?
A. Yes. But if a woman receives federal subsidies to help her buy coverage and selects a plan that offers abortion services, she would have to send two checks to the insurance company. One would have to be placed in an account reserved specifically for abortion coverage.
Q. How is that different from the original bill?
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A. The original bill required women to send just one check. And insurance companies had to take steps to assure that no subsidies were being used for abortion services. Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson and anti-abortion activists said that did not provide sufficient assurance that taxpayer money would not be used for abortions.
Q. Are there any other new requirements on insurance companies?
A. Yes. Insurers that offer plans that include abortion services would have to offer a parallel plan with the same benefits that did not cover abortion services.
Q. Would these rules apply to all insurance companies?
A. No. The rules would apply only to insurance plans sold in new government-run insurance exchanges, which is where Americans who do not get health benefits at work could shop for insurance starting in 2014. Many of these consumers would probably be eligible for federal subsidies to help pay premiums.
Insurance companies that offer plans through large employers would still be free to offer abortion services without any restrictions.
Q. Does this settle the abortion debate?
A. Probably not. The House health care bill includes a more restrictive rule that would prohibit women who receive federal subsidies from buying an insurance plan that covers abortion services. Many leading anti-abortion groups favor this approach.
If the Senate passes a bill by Christmas, the two bills will have to be reconciled next year. So the abortion issue is likely to arise again.