Opponents of a physician antitrust exemption bill are hoping to sink the proposal with a weighty abortion .
The bill, proposed by Rep. Thomas Campbell (R-Calif.), would allow individual physicians to collectively bargain with health plans, which is barred by current antitrust law.
The abortion issue entered the debate only last week, when the bill's foes began calling Catholic healthcare providers and anti-abortion Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, several healthcare lobbyists told MODERN HEALTHCARE.
Opponents argue that under Campbell's bill, physicians could collectively force insurers to cover and hospitals to provide abortion services. An amendment to that effect is circulating among House members, lobbyists said.
The National Abortion Rights Action League reacted swiftly, urging committee members to oppose attempts to carve out abortion services from other medical services the bill covers.
"Rep. Campbell's goal of enhancing physicians' role in determining patient care will be undermined if (such) language is included (in the bill)," the NARAL statement said.
The abortion issue could take center stage this week when the final committee vote on the bill is expected.
Meanwhile, opponents of the bill found an ally in the Congressional Budget Office, which last week released an analysis saying the bill would result in higher private insurance premiums and increased utilization of services. Direct spending for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program would grow by $165 million in 2001, with a total increase of $11.3 billion by 2010, according to the CBO.