Quick Fact: Fox News' Johnson claims Senate health bill includes “federal funding of abortion”

On Fox & Friends, Fox News' Peter Johnson Jr. claimed the Senate's health care bill allowed “federal funding of abortion,” falsely suggesting the bill exceeded what is currently allowed under the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of federal funds for abortions except in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest. Johnson also falsely conflated “reconciliation” and “the nuclear option.”

From the March 2 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

JOHNSON: The House is gonna adopt the Senate bill after all of this wrangling, and everything that a lot of people find objectionable in that Senate bill is going to be adopted by the House: Federal funding of abortion, not the Stupak approach.

DOOCY: So it's out in the House and in in the Senate.

JOHNSON: It's in in the Senate. The Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, those are part of the Senate proposal going forward. A watered-down public option, that's part of the Senate proposal. And so what they plan to do is use something called reconciliation, or the nuclear option, that was designed 30 years ago purely for budgetary and deficit purposes in the Congress.

FACT: Senate bill prohibits health insurers from using federal subsidies to pay for abortion services restricted by Hyde.

The Senate health care reform bill as passed states that if a “qualified health plan” offered under the health insurance exchange provides coverage of abortion services for which public funding is banned, “the issuer of the plan shall not use any amount attributable” to the subsidies created under the bill “for purposes of paying for such services.”

Senate bill establishes a separate premium to segregate funds used to pay for abortions from federal funds. The Senate bill as passed further requires issuers to “collect from each enrollee” in plans that cover abortions a “separate payment” for “an amount equal to the actuarial value of the coverage of” abortion services. This value must be at least $1 per enrollee, per month. All such funds are deposited into a separate account used by the issuer to pay for abortion services; federal funds and the remaining premium payments are used to pay for all other services.

Current law allows coverage for abortions restricted by Hyde under Medicaid through similar fund segregation. According to a November 1, 2009, study by the Guttmacher Institute, 17 states provide coverage under Medicaid for “all or most medically necessary abortions,” not just abortions in cases of life endangerment, rape, and incest. Those states “us[e] their own funds” -- not federal funds -- “to pay” for the procedures. Therefore, in 17 states, Medicaid, a federally subsidized health care program, covers abortions in circumstances in which federal money is prohibited from being spent on abortion.

FACT: “Nuclear option” was coined to describe the process to change Senate filibuster rules, not reconciliation

Lott described proposal to change filibuster rules as nuclear option. The term “nuclear option” was coined by Sen. Trent Lott, one of the leading advocates of a proposal to change the Senate rule that requires a three-fifths supermajority to invoke cloture and end a filibuster. After Republican strategists deemed the term a political liability, Republican senators began to attribute it to Democrats. As Media Matters for America noted, at the time, many in the news media followed suit, repeating the Republicans' false attribution of the term to the Democrats.

Reconciliation process is part of Congressional budget process. The budget reconciliation process is defined by the U.S. House Committee on Rules as “part of the congressional budget process ... utilized when Congress issues directives to legislate policy changes in mandatory spending (entitlements) or revenue programs (tax laws) to achieve the goals in spending and revenue contemplated by the budget resolution.”

Republicans have repeatedly used reconciliation to pass President Bush's agenda. Republicans used the budget reconciliation process to pass President Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts as well as the 2005 “Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act.” The Senate also used the reconciliation procedure to pass a bill containing a provision that would permit oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (The final version of that bill signed by President Bush did not contain the provision on drilling.)