Martha Coakley (D)

BOSTON (Legal Newsline)-U.S. Senate hopeful Martha Coakley said Monday that she would have voted against landmark health care legislation pushed by fellow Democrats and approved by the House this weekend.

The nearly $1 trillion plan, which narrowly cleared the House on a 220-215 vote, could fundamentally change the way U.S. health insurance companies do business.

Coakley, the state attorney general who is vying to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in the Senate, said in an interview on Boston's WTKK-FM that she is opposed to the plan because it would limit access to abortion funds.

Basically, the so-called Stupak-Pitts amendment woven into to the mammoth health care overhaul bill would restrict federal funding for providers of abortion services.

"The inclusion of the Stupak/Pitts amendment violates the very intent of health care reform, which is meant to guarantee quality, affordable health care coverage for everyone," she said in a statement after the House vote. "I believe that the Senate has a responsibility to fix this by eliminating the provision in whatever reform legislation moves forward."

Also seeking the vacant Massachusetts Senate seat is U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, who voted against the abortion amendment but in favor of the bill.

The House legislation would bar insurers from denying coverage and prohibit the insurance industry from charging higher premiums to consumers with a preexisting condition.

The bill also contains a public insurance option, which proponents say is aimed at injecting more competition into the health insurance marketplace. Under the legislation, the insurance industry would lose its exemption from federal antitrust restrictions on market allocation and price fixing.

The House-approved plan and the one that is expected to be passed in the Senate will be merged in conference committee before a final bill goes to President Barack Obama, who has made health care reform his No. 1 domestic priority.

The House plan would, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, extend insurance coverage to 36 million uninsured Americans and see to it that about 96 percent of Americans have medical coverage.

To pay for the coverage expansion, House Democrats want a surtax on couples who make more than $1 million a year, and a 2.5 percent excise tax on medical devices.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is having trouble gathering the 60 votes needed to approve a plan.

If signed by Obama, the health care overhaul would mark the most significant expansion of medical care since Congress created Medicare in 1965 for the nation's elderly and disabled.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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