Senate Dems fear House Medicare deal has abortion curbs

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

WASHINGTON (AP) — A tentative bipartisan House deal changing how Medicare reimburses doctors ran into turbulence in the Senate over abortion on Thursday, spotlighting a rare public disagreement between Congress' two top Democrats.

Some Democratic senators — including Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. — expressed concern that the emerging House agreement would write restrictions on abortions at community health centers into law. The centers provide medical care for millions of low-income Americans in every state.

There have been abortion curbs at community health centers for years. Senate Democrats say those limitations have been imposed by an Obama administration executive order that applied broad legal curbs on abortions to the health centers, not by law that specifically targets those centers.

The Medicare deal between House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., includes an additional $7 billion for the health centers over two years.

House Democratic aides say the abortion restrictions in the agreement would expire after two years and change nothing from existing curbs.

The dispute comes as the Senate remains entangled in an abortion dispute between the two parties that has stymied work on a popular bill aimed at helping victims of human trafficking.

The overall agreement between Boehner and Pelosi would block a 21 percent cut in doctors' Medicare fees that otherwise takes effect April 1, changes how doctors are reimbursed for Medicare patients in the future and provides fresh money for a health program for low-income children.

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AP Special Correspondent David Espo contributed to this report.