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Rolly: Bennett may be learning how President Obama feels
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

While Sen. Bob Bennett understandably has taken his Republican Party's line in opposing much of Democratic President Barack Obama's agenda, he must feel some empathy toward the president now since Bennett is a victim of the same right-wing nonsense that has been aimed at Obama the past few months.

Just as the more outrageous of the critics of Democratic health care reform have insisted, erroneously, that the legislation contains death panels that will "pull the plug on grandma," right-wing hyperbole now is pushing inaccurate claims about Bennett's health care reform plan that attempts to be an alternative to "Obamacare."

The Healthy Americans Act, which Bennett is co-sponsoring with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, was recently attacked by the conservative think tank Club for Growth as a government-run "health care nightmare," even though the bill, whose supporters include some of the most conservative Republicans in the Senate, would keep health care in the private sector.

The Club for Growth claims the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the Bennett-Wyden plan would cost the federal treasury more than $1 trillion, but the independent Factcheck.org has issued a report debunking that claim. In fact, it says just the opposite is true, that the Bennett-Wyden plan would save money over time.

Then there is the claim by Cherilyn Eagar, who is challenging Bennett for the Republican nomination next year, on her Facebook page.

"We've made several unsuccessful attempts to draw the attention of our local media to the dangers of the Wyden-Bennett health care bill, particularly the section about the non-church-owned insurance requirement to cover abortions and the grants that will be made available for setting up comprehensive school-based health clinics," which would, Eagar wrote, "provide abortion counseling and condom distribution."

First of all, Section 212 of the Bennett-Wyden bill says centers would provide primary health care services including health assessments, diagnosis and treatment of minor acute or chronic conditions and Healthy Start benefits. Nowhere does the bill state that these centers will be used for abortion counseling and condom distribution.

Moreover, Bennett has been a consistent supporter of the Hyde Amendment, which is the law of the land and prohibits the spending of tax money for support of abortions. The bill does nothing to change that.

The claim on Eagar's Facebook page about the non-church-owned insurance requirement to cover abortions is based on a section in the bill that states insurance providers must offer plans that are "actuarially equivalent" to the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan offered to members of Congress and all federal employees.

Under the Bennett-Wyden bill, an individual would have to opt in and pay more money to purchase insurance with supplemental coverage for abortion. Abortion coverage is not included in the basic level of coverage that would follow the FEHBP model. It would be considered an "add on" or supplemental and no taxpayer dollars would be used for such an "add on" to one's health care plan.

So fewer individuals are expected to opt for the "add on" coverage because it would cost more money.

Those complexities are ignored in the sound-bite criticisms.

It remains to be seen whether the GOP delegates at next year's convention will read and understand the senator's health care proposal or be seduced by sensational and inaccurate attacks.

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