On Wednesday, GOP lawmakers were able to take a peek at the Senate's revisions to the American Health Care Act, and one tweak in particular had moderate and far-right Republicans split. Due to a set of rather confusing Senate procedural rules, the AHCA may allow for abortion coverage after all. And for reproductive rights advocates, that might be the first piece of good news to come out of the controversial health care bill.
The House version of the AHCA prohibited Americans from using federal tax credits to buy health care plans that covered abortion. That version of the bill wouldn't have necessarily made it illegal for private insurers to make abortion coverage an option in their plans. However, it would have run the risk of seriously compromising abortion accessibility — especially for low-income women. As Adam Sonfield, the Guttmacher Institute's senior policy manager, told The New York Times, “There’s no reason insurers would sell any plans that cover abortion because everyone would be wanting to use these tax credits."
However, the Senate's revisions to the repeal and replace bill are far from being a done deal just yet. If moderate and far-right Republican senators remain opposed to the bill (for different reasons), it's likely it won't go to a vote before Congress' recess on July 4. And that could give the Senate more time to approve the House version's prohibition of abortion coverage in federally subsidized plans.
Though the Senate may have to cut language banning abortion coverage in federal insurance plans, it doesn't mean its version of the AHCA is that far of a throw from the House's version. For one, the bill would still cut off funds to Planned Parenthood. Furthermore, the bill cuts more severely into Medicaid than the House version did, though it would allot more time for phasing out the ACA's Medicaid expansion. But regardless of how you piece it out, millions of Americans will lose health care over the next decade, which continues to make some moderate Republicans uncomfortable.
Aside from Republicans being skeptical of particular revisions to the bill, some lawmakers simply refuse to vote on a piece of legislation that was released just days prior. In other words, if the Senate does vote on the bill before July 4, it's unlikely they'll know exactly what policies they're endorsing or opposing. A week or so simply isn't enough time to read an entire health care bill.
So while the new version of the AHCA, set to be unveiled in its entirety to the public (and lawmakers) on Thursday, might allow insurers to cover abortion after all, the bill still has lots of hoops to jump through before everything is said and done.