- The Washington Times - Monday, July 6, 2009

Grassleycare

Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa advised a constituent unhappy with his employer-provided health care plan to go work for the government if he wanted something better at a recent town hall event.

The conversation began when Mr. Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, tasked with legislating President Obama’s health care plan, was asked at meeting in Waukon, Iowa, about the insurance the government gives him as a U.S. senator.

“Why is your insurance so much cheaper than my insurance and better than my insurance?” an unidentified questioner asked Mr. Grassley in a video recording of the event that was later posted on the Internet.

The questioner then asked what Mr. Grassley paid per year for health insurance and how much his deductible cost. Mr. Grassley did not know offhand, but someone from the audience who had a similar plan offered some rough details.

Mr. Grassley then attempted to call on someone else, but the person interested in the government plan persisted. “How come I can’t have the same plan you have?” he insisted.

Frustrated, Mr. Grassley said, “You can. Go work for the federal government.”

The video was uploaded to the Internet and tagged by supporters Change that Works, a campaign conducted by the Service Employees International Union, which supports universal health care.

Since it was made available online, several liberal blogs have promoted the video as evidence Mr. Grassley, as well as other Republicans, are unsympathetic to those who struggle to obtain quality health care at a reasonable cost.

Cash for eggs

New York state will soon be making payments to women who give their eggs to the government for stem-cell research.

Tax dollars will be used to pay women up to $10,000 per retrieval for their eggs, according to a plan quietly agreed upon by the Empire State Stem Cell Board on June 11. The board will begin to accept applications from willing women this fall.

The program reflects a dramatic change in they way stem-cell research has been viewed by government since the George W. Bush administration, which believed using human embryos for research was immoral. One of President Obama’s first acts as an executive was to overturn Mr. Bush’s ban that forbade federal dollars from funding most embryonic stem-cell research.

Now, New York has set aside $600 million for payments to be awarded for “expense, time, burden and discomfort associated with the donation process,” according to the board’s decision.

Pro-life groups and some religious organizations have bashed the plan, saying it’s unethical and exploits women - especially in a down economy. Kathleen M. Gallagher, director of pro-life activities for the New York State Catholic Conference, said: “Payments to women for the extraction of their eggs crosses an ethical line that New Yorkers should not be forced to finance.”

“Regardless of one’s position on embryonic stem-cell research, we can all agree that women should not be exploited by researchers, with state approval,” she said. “The Legislature should step in now to ban payments for eggs.”

Supporters of the policy argue the compensation should be treated no differently than eggs donated to women who are infertile for reproductive purposes.

“There is no principled reason to distinguish between donation of oocytes for reproductive purposes and research purposes when determining the ethicality of reimbursement,” a statement from the state board said. “The risks associated with donating oocytes to stem-cell research are no greater than those associated with reproductive donations. Moreover, donating oocytes to stem-cell research arguably confers a greater benefit to society than does oocyte donation for private reproductive use.”

In regards to the compensation payments, the board said “such reimbursements are widely accepted as ethical, so long as they are not made contingent upon the quality or number of oocytes retrieved, the amount does not act as an undue inducement to donate and the short and long-term risks and benefits of donation are fully disclosed to the donor.”

• Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@ washington times.com.

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