White House spokesman Gibbs sneers at US Bishops

The White House Spokesman comments on Catholic bishops.

"Shut up!", he explained.

This is from CNA:

White House spokesman: Catholic bishops fail to understand law on federal funding of abortion

Washington D.C., Oct 12, 2009 / 07:03 pm (CNA).- Twice last week White House spokesman Robert Gibbs stated that federally funded abortions will not be included in the government’s health care reform due to the Hyde Amendment, a statement which is in direct opposition to two recent letters sent to Congress by the U.S. Catholic bishops.  [Interesting.  The bishops issue a challenge and the WH responds.  Could the US Catholic bishops challenge other things too?]

CNA reported that last Wednesday, Gibbs claimed that the Hyde Amendment will also apply to health care reform legislation. The Hyde Amendment, named after the late pro-life advocate Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), prevents federal funds that are appropriated through the annual Health and Human Services appropriation bill from paying for abortions[So… the Hyde Amendment concerns appropriations for Health and Human Services.  But does it apply to the new legislation being proposed?]

Gibbs’ first assertion that abortions will not be paid for with taxpayer funds in the new health care reform bill came last Wednesday at press briefing at the White House. The White House spokesman had said at the time, “there’s a fairly well documented federal law that prevents it.” [A little condescending maybe?]

Responding to the press secretary’s claim, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) said that “the proposed health insurance reform contains a nationwide government-run insurance program and premium subsidy programs to help tens of millions of Americans purchase health coverage. [Here is the point…]  None of the funds for the public plan and spent by the premium subsidy programs would be appropriated through the annual appropriations bill and would therefore be outside the scope of the Hyde Amendment.

The NRLC said this analysis has been confirmed by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service[If these groups are correct, it seems either that the White House is LYING or that the WH Spokesman is incompetent.  It is possible that both are the case, but there must be some explanation for this discrepancy.]

Then, [and this is interesting…] on Thursday the U.S. bishops sent a letter to members of Congress asking them to “exclude mandated coverage for abortion,” and include “policies against abortion funding and in favor of conscience rights.”

The bishops noted that they “remain apprehensive when amendments protecting freedom of conscience and ensuring no taxpayer money for abortion are defeated in committee votes. If acceptable language in these areas cannot be found, we will have to oppose the health care bill vigorously,” they insisted.  [I wonder what that opposition would look like?   Something the bishops reading this site should keep in mind is that the Catholic blogosphere would support them.  Some bloggers would go to the wall to help bishops in good causes.]

The following day, Gibbs contradicted the bishop’s letter at a White House press briefing[I’m shocked!  Shocked to find prevarication going on in the Press Office!]

CNSNews.com addressed Gibbs saying, “You said on Wednesday that the Hyde amendment would prevent abortion funding through the health bill. The Catholic bishops have repeatedly said that the Hyde amendment would not apply to the health care bill and yesterday in the letter that they sent to Congress they said that if language expressly prohibiting abortion funding is not added to the health care bill, they will vigorously–‘vigorously oppose’–that’s a quote–the bill.  My question on that, does the President support the bishops on this? And to eliminate this as an issue, will he call on Congress to have an explicit prohibition of abortion funding?”

[Get this…in ] Gibbs answered that his answer is the same as it was on Wednesday.  “There may be a legal interpretation that has been lost here, […in other words, "they’re dumb"…] but there’s a fairly clear federal law prohibiting the federal use of money for abortion. I think it is–again, it’s exceedingly clear in the law.”  […in other words, "they’re dumb"…]

Lucas then followed up his question, asking, “But the Hyde amendment is only for direct appropriations for HHS, and that’s…”

Gibbs replied quickly, “Again, I think that law is exceedingly clear.” [… in other words, "we here at the White House think any one who brings up distinctions is dumb….]

 

To repeat, the bishops reading this site should keep in mind that the Catholic blogosphere would support them.  Bloggers would go to the wall to help bishops in good causes.

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38 Responses to White House spokesman Gibbs sneers at US Bishops

  1. Eric says:

    Either the White House knows the law and is trying to sneak something through or they just don’t understand the law.
    I don’t know which is scarier.

  2. chironomo says:

    Yes, we certainly would. All we require is LEADERSHIP…we all can see clearly that the WH is either lying, mistaken, or both. When the Senate committe repeatedly defeats any attempt to add specific language prohibiting abortion funding to a bill, we have to be VERY suspicious. The references to the Hyde Ammendment are a smoke-screen… it clearly won’t apply unless it is also ammended to include the new legislation. To just repeatedly keep saying “it applies, now shut up!” is a silencing tactic.

  3. Supertradmom says:

    One of the signs of the presence of evil is confusion. Where there is confusion, there is evil, period.

  4. Baron Korf says:

    Amen! I’d be behind any bishop standing up for our teachings, especially against Caesar!

  5. Stu says:

    Why the dichotomy regarding the White House Press Secretary? I belive he could easily be lying AND incompetent.

  6. Peggy R says:

    Yes! I am ready to “go to the mattress” on this one. [“Godfather” via chick flik, “You’ve Got Mail.”]

    I, a mere (definitely unemployed) blogger (mom at home) with economic background, strongly oppose this bill and have been blogging against this. I am quite happy to add to the USCCB’s opposition on the bases of abortion and conscience clauses.

    I have started to think that we can use the pro-abort crowd’s hard-heartedness to our advantage to stop this evil legislation. The USCCB’s bases for opposition have been narrow, but I’ll take it. There is so much morally, legally, economically, and fiscally wrong with these plans.

    I don’t doubt both lying and incompetence occur in the current WH.

  7. romancrusader says:

    Kudos to our bishops.

  8. Ana says:

    Many of us, including myself, will fully support the Bishops speaking out more forcefully against this bill!

    We really need to keep in mind this is a smokescreen coming from someone who stated he did not support “gay marriage” during his campaign, but now wants to do away with DOMA. The same thing is happening here. If he (BO) truly felt the Hyde amendment applied and believed in the premise behind the Hyde amendment, we would not be having this discussion.

    SMOKESCREEN

    SMOKESCREEN

  9. mpm says:

    What Gibbs, Democrats, and the President are doing is “equivocating”, a form of lying. “Taxpayer funds” can mean “the citizen’s money”, or the “taxes collected from citizens”. Court interpretations (SCOTUS or appeals courts), as well as HHS bureaucratic policy guidelines (both will come after the law is passed), could find (are likely to find?) a conflict between such language and “the standard of care” guidelines (also to be determined after passage), and approve spending for abortions.

    The only way to have any reasonable expectation that abortions will not be paid for (IMO) is to put explicit language in the bill prohibiting coverage for abortions (although it could be included if the individual wanted to pay an additional premium for it). That would give guidance to SCOTUS if any cases reached them. And the Hyde Amendment offers exceptions in the usual cases of rape, incest and threat to mother’s life (so let the “purists” bite their tongues).

    That’s what the Democrats, and Obama, do not want. They want the Govt to be “interpreted” into providing coverage for abortion. That way they can continue to say “we didn’t do it, the courts did it”.

    It’s kind of similar to “generating, or saving, 3 million jobs). No way to prove or disprove it.

    The equivocation serves their purposes quite well. It helps them to a) get the bill passed NOW, and b) get the chance to implement what it means LATER (without the need for votes).

  10. Fr. John Mary says:

    Laura Ingraham says of Gibbs (my own words, I’m paraphrasing here), “He’s like the kid when you were in junior high that everybody hated; always the “know-it-all”, mouthy, arrogant, and just plain stupid.”
    Pretty on target, she.

  11. JohnE says:

    If passing the health care reform bill is so important, and there will be no public funding of abortion as the White House insists, why don’t they just humor us and allow it to be explicitly excluded in the language of the bill? If it’s just redundant language, it seems like a very small price to pay and would probably diffuse much opposition.

    I think they know very well that it would fund abortion. Hilary Clinton said abortion “services” are part of health care. Sebelius and just about everyone in the administration are rabid abortion fanatics. Truth is not reality for them, it’s whatever people end up accepting when you plug your ears and keep repeating the same thing.

  12. mpm says:

    For the record, personally, I am, and have been for more than 20 years, in favor of reforming the health insurance system. However, prudentially I see no reason for an all-or-nothing “reform” drafted over a few weeks with no feedback from reality, and affecting 17% of the economy all at once (especially in the economic times in which we live, though more for prudential reasons than economic ones). I think that institutions such as the Mayo Clinic have similar concerns about “rushing” the job.

    I think there are four things that the government can legitimately do, and I think it should do them now (and not wait for them to take effect in 4 years while collecting the money immediately).

    a) define what “portability” of health insurance means legally, and require it;
    b) outlaw the use of “pre-existing conditions” for purposes of health insurance coverage or reimbursement;
    c) reform the “tort” system so that finite awards can be given in administrative, not civil or criminal court, when “negligence” can be proven (referral by a judge to a criminal court could be one of the outcomes of such inquests);
    d) remove the feudalization of health insurance companies by states, in favor of nationally or internationally competing health insurance companies.

    Work with that for a stipulated number of years, and then see if there is a need for a “public option” or not.

    I think this covers most of what people do not like about our current payment system, the ever-upward rise of costs, complies with subsidiarity (especially the “portability” issue), and will give us some additional experience about whether “socializing medicine” is necessary or not.

    I think there is another area where either the private civil society (including Church groups) or the Government might make a contribution. Providing health clinics to act as “triage stations” so that emergency rooms are not the only source of help for those without “primary care providers” as they are called. Since PCPs are the entry-point into the “system”, the lack of a clear PCP for immigrants, or others who do not have health insurance, would be a great service. And when I say “triage”, all I mean is determining whether the emergency room is appropriate, or in other cases, the ability to provide simple care, whether “in house” or via referrals to specialists.

  13. mpm says:

    JohnE,

    You are correct.

    Hillary Clinton in Congressional testimony, and in response to a question from Mike Pence, Rep. of Indiana, said (paraphrasing): “This administration is determined to establish that abortion is part of the standard of care for women’s reproductive health services.”

    Obviously, she was speaking as Secretary of State, so they are determined to make this “stick” not just nationally, but also internationally. It really would behove some of our Catholic brethren abroad (and I’m not talking about Latin America where they already know this is the case) to pay attention to the details of their much-beloved new American administration.

  14. robtbrown says:

    b) outlaw the use of “pre-existing conditions” for purposes of health insurance coverage or reimbursement;
    Comment by mpm

    That would of course require govt subsidy.

  15. TomB says:

    There is no telling what is buried within 1400 pages of legislation, which nobody has read (but many of whom will vote for it anyhow). When it all comes out, in a few years or months, someone will easily be able to find a “right” to have abortions publicly funded. Heck, emanations from penumbras was child’s play.

  16. Henry Edwards says:

    There is no telling what is buried within 1400 pages of legislation

    What may be even more idiotic is that — as I understand it — they’re voting on the bill before these all pages have even be written. Staffers (or Acorn consultants) can insert the real “gotcha” pages later.

  17. rwprof says:

    “outlaw the use of “pre-existing conditions” for purposes of health insurance coverage or reimbursement;
    Comment by mpm

    That would of course require govt subsidy.”

    Not to mention an(other) unwarranted government intrusion into the private sector. But it would be an excellent way to bankrupt insurance companies, which is no doubt the point.

  18. JosephMary says:

    Not only are all the pages of bills that pass through congress not completely read, muchless understood, they are moving forward irregardless.

    No explicit monies set for abortions? Well, there is much precident for word-smithing. Maybe something called ‘public option’ will provide the vehicle for abortion funding. But anyone who thinks tax dollars will not fund abortions might be interested in a bridge I would like to sell.

  19. trad catholic mom says:

    I think the white house is lying and they know exactly what they are doing. He overturned the Mexico City policy after all.

  20. mpm says:

    Comment by robtbrown — 13 October 2009 @ 10:45 am

    It would not necessarily require government subsidy. If the ability to include a more statistically representative sample by writing policies nationwide (or globally) instead of just in a given state accompanies the reform, it is the most likely thing to lower the premium curve without government subsidies.

    It is also one of the things that can be monitored during the stipulated interim period. In addition, if there were a need for a government subsidy, the size of the subsidy would become empirically estimable.

  21. dcs says:

    b) outlaw the use of “pre-existing conditions” for purposes of health insurance coverage or reimbursement;
    Comment by mpm

    That would of course require govt subsidy.
    Comment by robtbrown

    Or require those without such “pre-existing conditions” to pay higher premiums.

  22. mpm says:

    Not to mention an(other) unwarranted government intrusion into the private sector. But it would be an excellent way to bankrupt insurance companies, which is no doubt the point.
    Comment by rwprof — 13 October 2009 @ 11:59 am

    a) I’m not sure whether a tender devotion toward insurance companies is a required virtue for entering into the kingdom of God.

    b) As businesses, surely insurances companies have the opportunity for corporate combinations/mergers (as long as the law does not prohibit it).

    c) I see no other way to achieve more universal access, at a contained cost, and without a public option, do you? I have an open mind on other approaches that show potential.

    For the record, I am not sympathetic to any of the bills or approaches being talked about in Congress, which I thought I already made clear. I am in favor of doing something, but also doing it in increments, with the government first doing what only it can do, which involves effecting laws which are helpful.

  23. MichaelJ says:

    mpm,

    Could you please explain in more detail what you mean by “outlaw the use of “pre-existing conditions” for purposes of health insurance coverage or reimbursement”.

    If taken at face value, it could easily mean that an individual has no need to purchase health insurance *at all* until the momenet before entering the doctor’s office or hospital.

  24. The funny thing, is medicare denys more people than the private sector does combined. I have a feeling if Obamacare passes even more people will be denied

  25. Cavaliere says:

    This is a continuation of Obama politics from Chicago. Remeber when he wouldn’t support an Illinois state bill against infants born alive because he claimed that it was unnecessary due to exisiting federal law already prohibiting the same actions. He lied then and is lying now.

  26. mpm says:

    Or require those without such “pre-existing conditions” to pay higher premiums.
    Comment by dcs — 13 October 2009 @ 12:50 pm

    Maybe. There are usually adjustments when new laws come into effect. However, allowing insurance companies access to a larger pool of insurees, and allowing them to combine, if necessary, across state lines, may provide for an actuarially more predictable set of inflows/outflows that will allow premiums to settle down after an initial disruption.

    The reality is, however, that he who is without pre-existing conditions today, will very likely acquire one or more in the course of his life. Though the future for him may be so bright he has to wear shades, that may not work out the way he thinks it will. Isn’t that why one buys insurance in the first place? Without portability, God forbid you should either lose your job, or have to quit to take care of a spouse or child with real difficulties.

    The big question I would ask about medical insurance companies, and/or those who feel there is no need whatsoever for any sort of reform, is this: If the companies cannot or will not compete against one another fairly, under any circumstances, then where does that leave the private market argument?

  27. mpm says:

    Comment by MichaelJ — 13 October 2009 @ 1:01 pm

    MichaelJ,

    The point you make is the one that I have heard most often: one can wait until one is sick, and then purchase insurance, and make out pretty well.

    My premise is that Congress will mandate the purchase of health insurance for all citizens (plus immigrants?) Thus, it will look like FICA, it will be deducted from your paycheck, like it or not. There are certain “poverty” or indigency thresholds. Presumably, the government will pay for the indigent.

    One may say that Congress should not do this, but I don’t think there is a natural law argument one way or another about that. After all, the government is supposed to be the only agent of society that can coerce people into doing things; and hopefully things that should be done, rather than things that should not be done. The relevant question is, “Is it necessary for the common good?” I guess I fall on the side of saying, “it is”, which is a prudential judgement, I admit.

    Given that mandate, there is an upside: there is a chance to establish a system based on true actuarial experience. Virtually the entire population will be paying in, healthy or sick. Premiums will be set accordingly, by private insurance companies, each in competition with the others for consumers’ business.

    Outlawing the use of pre-existing conditions to exclude payment means that payment for needed treatment cannot be denied legally.

  28. Clinton says:

    mpm, I have one quibble with your post(s). You mention that “the government will pay for the indigent”. I think it would be more
    accurate to say that the taxpayers will pay for the indigent. And, presumably, immigrants. And for the labyrinthine administration
    of the government-run healthcare. And, as far as I can tell in this haze of smoke and mirrors, for “reproductive services”.

    My point is that “the government” isn’t paying for any of this. We, the taxpayers, are.

    I don’t wish to imply that you believe that this reform package will come cheaply, or that you believe that our nation will be
    able to pluck the finances from thin air. It’s just that I believe the phrase “the government will pay for X” obscures the fact
    of who exactly is footing the bill.

    Quibble aside, mpm, I’ve been fascinated by your posts. Your observation (@1:00pm) about the best approach being incremental is
    spot-on. It is a pity that this administration is not taking that approach, but rather embraces its opposite.

  29. Girgadis says:

    Allowing insurance companies to continue to refuse to cover pre-existing conditions is just plain wrong. Children born with medical problems can be denied coverage once they are too old to be insured on their parents’ plans. Having two such children myself, I am committed to making sure that this discrimination against less-than-perfect people comes to an end. There are safeguards that can be put in place to prevent abusers from refusing to buy insurance until they’re in dire straits. For the life of me, I don’t see the difference between a heartless government plan that decides some people aren’t worth saving and an insurance company that tells a person born with birth defects they’re out of luck because they’d be too expensive to cover, especially not with the kind of profits health insurers realize. And for the record, I don’t advocate any plan that would fund abortion, euthanasia, stem cell or IVF. I just think some common-sense changes are needed, starting with abolition of the pre-existing condition clause and continuing with real effort to contain costs. Get the cost of diagnosis and treatment under control and the result will be lower premiums and more people able to afford insurance.

  30. Tantum Ergo says:

    I do indeed hope our bishops will take up the gauntlet.
    My Mom used to refer to “cutting off a dog’s tail one inch at a time so it won’t hurt so much.” I’m sick of the incremental amputations of decency in our country.

  31. mpm says:

    Clinton,

    Thanks. And you are certainly correct about who the actual payers are.

  32. mpm says:

    This whole issue, and our constant concern with what “the bishops” are saying/doing about these things, makes me want to advocate what I regard as a more serious approach that the Church as a whole ought to be taking in these “social justice” matters.

    What motivates me is that I know from personal experience that health care insurance concerns have been on the radar screen of Catholic bishops, religious orders, hospitals, physicians, nurses, and others, since the 1970s (at least) in this country.

    It is unfortunate that the USCCB, viewed as what it started out being, the U.S. Catholic Welfare Conference, not as a body for establishing common practice in the country (a la Vatican II), has not taken the approach of eliciting consensus among “experts”, lay, religious, and clerical, on these different issues over the decades. To be truthful and fair, the bishops, whether as part of USCCB official activities, or in their own dioceses, or in “births-of-a-feather” sessions with other bishops, have from time to time, sat to hear experts on the various component parts of “health care reform”. So that over the years, a good deal of “testimony” about different “reforms” that might work has been given and heard.

    The problem, though, is that the “raw material” has been used, I think, to provide documentation for the staff of the USCCB, in drafting the kinds of white-papers calling for policy changes which are then used to “lobby” the Congress and Administration on the part of the USCCB as a body, not published to inform public opinion.

    But that has two downsides: 1) It makes it look like “the Catholic Bishops” are just another K Street lobbying group, i.e., a politically inspired body; and b) the (in)formative value of all that testimony for Catholics other than the Bishops is lost (since they never see it), and Catholics are given the impression that it is not for them to take these issues seriously, and think about how they might like to see the issues addressed (which is something that we are obliged to do by our Christian vocation), but rather to wait for the bishops to make up their minds, and then follow their lead. I don’t think the latter approach makes for a healthy Church.

    KIM, I am not trying to belittle or demean the real spiritual Authority which I, as a Catholic, believe has been entrusted to each bishop by Christ. I’m talking about matters which, in the end, will be decided and rightly so, by prudential judgements reflected in the advocacy and votes of each and every one of us. Health care insurance (reform) is a case in point. There are many aspects to the issue, and there have been many ways suggested over the decades for “skinning each cat”. I think the USCCB would do a far greater service to the whole Catholic Church in this country, and to the country as a whole, had it published books/booklets from time-to-time (or now, maintained a website) containing views that they deemed morally appropriate (i.e., not immoral) for all American citizens to consider, talk about with each other, and allow a consensus to form.

    I think that would encourage the more incremental approaches to these issues, as well as participation by us with better-formed consciences and better-informed minds. I see a number of problems with the “whitepaper” approach, but the chief one is that all the analysis is done for you, and you are given a “baked cake”, which may have left some important ingredients out, especially in mixed matters. Obviously, this approach would not be appropriate for matters of faith and morals per se, but it does much better fit, in my opinion, matters which are truly mixed, as are most of those which are dealt with under the rubric of “social teaching of the Church”.

    Issues which involve many different expertises, require us to hear representatives having those expertises give their best views on their nature, and suggestions as to how our society might improve their implementation.

  33. MichaelJ says:

    mpm,

    Is it outside of an individual’s area of competence to decide if purchasing healt insurance is necessary? There are those (Bill Gates, for example) who can pay any necessary medical expenses themselves. There are others (like me) who have for some inexplicable reason been blessed with good health and have never had the need to visit a Doctor.

    I do not have a good answer for this, but at what point must the state step in to protect an individual from their own (good or bad) decisions?

    Girgadis,

    I am not sure if your statement that “Children born with medical problems can be denied coverage once they are too old to be insured on their parents’ plans” is entirely correct. You (or I, for that matter) may have been misled, but I was under the impression that as long as an individual had continuous medical insurance, the situation you describe is prohibited by law.

  34. mpm says:

    MichaelJ,

    a) I just saw your question to me. Basically, I agree with you, the natural law dictates nothing about purchasing health insurance, so in that case it is a prudential decision on the part of an individual whether to purchase health insurance or not.

    To take it a step further, however, gets us into the kind of issue which the Church addresses in her “social doctrine”: not something open and shut according to natural law, but something for which there is some kind of “push” on in society, to determine the “right and left field lines”, so to speak. For Rerum novarum it was, among a few other things, the moral licitness of labor unions.

    When enough people start pushing for something which is going to affect the whole society, it is part of the natural law for us to participate in that debate, and try to ascertain whether there are some solutions being proposed, or propose them ourselves, that are better than others, and then advocate for the better ones.

    That’s where I think we find ourselves today regarding health care insurance.

    b) The “nanny state” is truly annoying, and I think it violates the dignity of the human person, as if the State were some super-human entity that had all the answers to human life, or at least the best answers.

  35. mpm says:

    MichaelJ,

    The question you address to Girgadis may (?) depend on state laws.

    Last night I heard a senator state that the Finance committee bill had raised the age when insurance companies may “cut off” dependent children from 18 or while in college, to 26 years of age, I think it was.

  36. MichaelJ says:

    mpm,
    I am confused by your answer. I thought you were proposing that Congress mandate the purchase of health insurance for all citizens. Now you seem to be saying that this sort of thing would violate the dignity of the human person. What am I missing?

  37. Girgadis says:

    MichaelJ

    After what we just went through getting individual coverage for our healthy 21 yr old who is a part-time college student, I dread the day the two youngest can no longer be covered on my plan. After a two-week “investigation” to make sure she didn’t have a pre-existing condition, my daughter then had to answer even more questions in relation to having seen a primary care doc more than once in the same year. After they agreed to cover her, the insurance company had a caveat – the rate they agreed upon was no longer applicable because too much time had elapsed between when we applied and when we were approved. I only thank God I can afford to pay for it at all.

    Perhaps it is not entirely accurate to say that children born with chronic problems can be denied insurance once they come of age to get their own coverage. There are plans that will cover pre-existing conditions but they cost an exorbitant amount of money. I can understand making people who abuse themselves by smoking, etc pay higher premiums, but why do people who, through no fault of their own, were born with a chronic illness, get punished? HIPPA only applies to employer-provided insurance and it, too has its limitations.

    And believe me, I have no confidence a government-run plan would be any better. Last week I read about a kidney transplant recipient who had to go back on dialysis. Why? The federal government stuck its nose into the organ transplant “industry” so Medicare pays for transplants but NOT for the anti-rejection drugs necessary to keep the kidney viable. These drugs run as high as $3000 a month but cost Medicare much less than kidney dialysis. It defies logic. Now the poor man, who has too much pride to go on welfare, lost his apartment trying in vain to pay for his anti-rejection drugs and had to move in with a parent. Tragically, he’s back on the transplant list.

    There is much work to be done but I doubt the bill sitting in Congress addresses any of the real issues contributing to the problems. Without cost-containment, there can be no real reform.

  38. MichaelJ says:

    Girgadis,
    I am sorry, but I have no explanation. When I was transitioning to civilian life, I was encouraged to purchase “gap insurance”. This was not so much so that I would be insured if disaster befell me before I found a civilian job and became covered under a new plan but so that the new plan could not deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions. It was explained to me that a pre-existing condition exclusion did not apply as long as I had continuous coverage. Based on what you say, this may very well have been some kind of marketing ploy.