Mitt's Plan, The Abortion Question

Mitt Romney has a new op-ed in USA Today outlining the health care plan he'll talk about in his big speech tomorrow, and I have one question. Well, more than one, but here's one.

Here is "Step 2" of Romney's plan:

Reform the tax code to promote the individual ownership of health insurance. The tax code offers open-ended subsidies for the purchase of insurance through employers. This subsidy is unfair — as it doesn't apply to insurance purchased on one's own. I propose to give individuals a choice between the current system and a tax deduction to buy insurance on their own. This simple change creates the best of both worlds. Absolutely nothing will change for those who like their current coverage. And individuals who don't get coverage through their employers will have portable, lower-cost options.

As you may or may not know (but will when you read this week's Boston Phoenix editorial!) the other day the US House of Representatives passed the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act." That bill would take away the tax subsidy Romney is refering to, for small businesses whose employee insurance plans include coverage for abortions.

The idea is that, even though on the surface that insurance purchase appears to be a purely private transaction, the tax break means that the public is actually paying for a portion of it, and thus the taxpayer is in some very indirect way paying for abortions.

Now Romney wants to extend the same type of subsidy, in the form of a tax deduction, to individual purchasers of health insurance. So, would that include purchasers of health insurance with abortion coverage? Or does he want to follow House Republicans, apply their logic, and offer the deduction only for purchasing insurance without abortion coverage?

I have submitted this question to the campaign, but I'm not expecting a rapid response. But when pro-life conservatives get wind of this proposal, they're going to ask too, and he can't ignore them.

Update: Ezra Klein suggests a slightly different interpretation of the individual-subsidy proposal: rather than simply adding a (massively budget-busting) tax deduction for those purchasing individually, Romney may be proposing to replace the employer tax subsidy entirely with a new individual deduction. I'm dubious about that, but we'll know what Romney means soon enough. However, if Klein is correct, then my question takes on far greater importance -- because this change would (if I'm understanding correctly) make the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" move moot, and leaving no way for Congress to use the tax code to discourage employers from offering insurance with abortion coverage. The only way to do it would be to apply the no-abortion-coverage requirement on this new individual deduction.

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