When pigs fly: the New York Times publishes an essay by the CEO of EWTN

This appeared on Ash Wednesday on the Op Ed page of the New York Times, written by Michael P. Warsaw, President and CEO of EWTN:

EWTN cannot comply with the recent mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services requiring the insurance plans of all employers, with the exception of some houses of worship, to cover the contraceptives and sterilization procedures approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These include emergency contraceptives like Plan B and Ella that can destroy human embryos — an act that we consider a violation of church teaching that all life is a sacred gift that begins at conception.

Earlier this month, in response to widespread opposition to the mandate, the president announced an “accommodation” for some religious organizations — like, potentially, EWTN — that would shift the responsibility for the coverage from the employer to the employer’s insurance carrier. But this would do nothing to solve the problem. First, EWTN self-insures, so we are the insurer. Second, even if we had an outside insurer, we would still be in the untenable position of facilitating access to drugs that go against our beliefs. And if we refused to comply with the directive, we could be hit with annual fines starting at around $600,000.

The administration’s supporters say that by opposing the rule, religious employers like EWTN are guilty of trying to coerce our employees and impose our values on them. But we are simply choosing not to participate in the use of these drugs. Our 350 employees, many of whom are not Catholic, freely choose to work here and can purchase and use contraception if they want to. They are aware of the values we practice, and I hear regularly from Catholic and non-Catholic employees alike how much they love working for an organization that is defined by its Catholic beliefs — beliefs that we think result in a better workplace and more expansive benefits over all.

Instead, it is the government — which does not accept EWTN’s religious choice and can punish that choice by imposing fines — that is coercing us. But under the Constitution and federal religious liberties law, we cannot be forced to give up our beliefs as the price of participation in the public square. That is why the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty hasfiled a lawsuit on our behalf seeking to overturn this illegal mandate.

But religious liberty isn’t even the only thing at risk; the mandate also threatens the financial viability of any organization that disagrees with the administration’s politics. They could be forced to stop offering health insurance and be saddled with fines, which are immense competitive disadvantages. They’ll have to take money away from their core missions to pay fines. They’ll lose employees who can’t afford to work for employers who offer no health insurance. They’ll lose donors who are scared off by the penalties.

The end result: organizations that agree with the administration or are willing to compromise their beliefs will thrive. Organizations that don’t will shrink or die.

Read it all.


  1. So, pigs really do fly!

  2. I do not watch EWTN. I especially do not care for the commentary of Raymond Arroyo.

  3. Katie Angel says:

    I, too, am not a big fan of some of the content on EWTN but I do support their position on this issue. As they point out, people who work for these organizations know the philosophies of the company they work for and choose to work there. I pray that the HHS and the President reverset this wrong-headed position and stop trying to dictate to to religiously affiliated organizations that they must violate their beliefs or suffer the consequences.

  4. Persecution – and this is the beginning of persecution of the Church, brings people together and allows us to set aside the our petty differences of opinion and style. The President did something that no one in at least a century has been able to do – get the faithful and the bishops to agree on something other than the weather. Even dozens of Protestant leaders are in concurrence with us, even though morally they have no problem with contraception. EWTN i is not everyone’s cup of Catholicism, but everyone knows what EWTN is about and what EWTN stands for.

  5. Would anyone expect EWTN to say anything else?

  6. Will, I do not believe that the posting asked: Do you watch EWTN?

  7. Sorry I was off-topic Deacon Greg Kandra.

  8. Here’ s the part I don’t understand. The whole stupid mandate is not only a political tactic of “wag the dog”, but it is UNCONSTITUTIONAL. If everyone would just ignore it, laugh at it, or yawn it would be meaningless.

    No one has to follow an illegal “law” period, which this clearly is. There wouldn’t be enough jails to put us all in, so I say, chill and ignore it, and go on about your business. This thing only has legs because we give it legs.

    It’s ILLEGAL, period. Every insurance company, and every US citizen needs to understand that.

  9. I do not think the penalty is jail. This might be settled politically; if not the courts will decide the constitutionality.

  10. So starts the jizya. $2000 fine per employee and no health insurance at all.

    Time to start setting up medical practices that don’t take insurance at all. There are already some doctors who do this, and the money they save from avoiding the administrative costs, and negotiating with suppliers who like getting paid right away instead of waiting for insurance, makes it possible for their services to sometimes be as cheap as the insurance co-pay.

    With ObamaCare, the cost of all medical drugs and services provided by insurance are going to skyrocket, so such care will be even more cost-effective. As long as no one makes it illegal to buy medical supplies withOUT going through insurance.

    Of course, there will still be the $2000/person jizwa, but so far that just applies to organization with more than, what is it? 50 employees?

    So, here’s the practical interim (maybe permanent?) solution: we need to create LOTS of Catholic health care centers with 50 or fewer employees that don’t take payment in medical insurance. Sounds like we need something like the Knights of Columbus or a religious order to get started on organizing this, just like the KoC did with life insurance and religious orders did with education. And like the Crisis Pregnancy Centers set up by pro-life people.

    Time for the laity to exercise THEIR charisms – implementing the Gospel in the world.

  11. “What With ObamaCare, the cost of all medical drugs and services provided by insurance are going to skyrocket”

    What is your source for this?

  12. The frequency with which people are shocked with what is allowed to be published in the New York Times (or the “Mainstream Media”) should lead the holders of shock to reevaluate their prejudices.

    As for the EWTN piece, it is histrionics. $600,000 in fines would mean EWTN has about 300 employees. For the non-math majors, that would mean $167 per employee per month they would be fined for not providing health insurance. A family health insurance policy goes for about $1300 per month now. The individual market is sitting at about $250 per month.

  13. Because that’s what happens with third-party payer systems. Economics 101. It’s also part of the reason medical costs have increased so much. No one even knows what something really costs unless they have insurance.

    I’ve had my own company where I bought health insurance for employees, I’ve had to pay for my own insurance two different times, about ten years apart, and I’ve used COBRA, so I have some experience, but it really is Economics 101. And really, I’m not interesting in arguing about this.

    I’d fully support something like what I described. I’m an IT person. Are there any doctors, medical people that need someone like me who are willing to start doing this? I’m ready to put my time and talents behind this.

  14. should be “unless they DON’T have insurance.”

  15. Er, that’s $2000 per person PLUS no health insurance.

  16. naturgesetz says:

    Your point, if any?

  17. I sure hope so, but the courts also upheld slavery and more recently, ruled that there was a right to abortion.

    I’m not a politician (hard to tell, huh? LOL) – that’s not my charism, but all of the laity is called to act according their own charisms. And mine is IT.

  18. I would imagine that EWTN has at least 300 employees, but the remainder of your comment makes no sense. What, if anything, are we expected to do with it?

  19. My point is that the price of going against the mandate, if it is allowed to stand, is that Catholic employers will have to pay $2000 per employee and stop offering their employees insurance.

    So if a Catholic employer wants to continue to support the health needs of their employees, they are going to be out $2000 AND figure out how to do so. They can’t self insure anymore to avoid the law, so they could increase the salary of their employees to hopefully cover their health expenses. But then Catholic employees are also going to have to be able to find affordable health care without insurance. Hence the idea of the doctors’ practices that don’t take it.

    I’m just reasoning out the logical consequences of what happens if you want to provide for the health care of your employees when you have to pay a $2000 fee per employee and don’t have the option of health insurance.

  20. Will there isn’t any penalty for an unconstitutional law, that’s the point. Everyone is making this into some big political shake down while the reality remains, it’s ILLEGAL. We are protected still protected by the constitution, despite a president who doesn’t believe it applies it him.

    If all of everyone would just unite that they will not obey unconstitutional and unjust laws, it will be on the Obama administration to prove us wrong. Good luck on that, especailly in an election year.

  21. I believe that there are two separate, somewhat linked, problems. First, there are many people who cannot afford health insurance. Second, health care in the United States costs much more than in other countries and continues to rise more rapidly than inflation.

    The cost of the uninsured is passed on to everyone else because of unpaid medical bills and because the uninsured wait until they have a costly, acute problem before seeking medical attention. I have had some limited discussions with Europeans and those I have spoken with are happy with their health care. This is not an easy issue to deal with, but it the problem will not be resolved with the current national attack rhetoric.

  22. The point is that EWTN is not speaking honestly. They are deliberately misleading by claiming the fines would place them in financial peril. What you choose to do with that information is your business.

  23. “First, there are many people who cannot afford health insurance”
    Yes, and the system I’m talking about caters to them.

    “Second, health care in the United States costs much more than in other countries and continues to rise more rapidly than inflation.”
    Because of the third party payer system. Which ObamaCare makes worse.

    As to the attack rhetoric, call it what you will, I’m just looking at the practical consequences. As Catholics, we’ve been shut out before and had to develop our own systems. We’re pretty good at it, actually.

    The thing is, we don’t need a government program or anybody’s permission to do this. And probably all Catholic institutions should transition to self insured as a first step.

    I guess @Klaire is right, though. In the meantime, the institutions should just refuse to pay, in hopes this will ruled illegal.

  24. They said it would cause Catholic organizations to shrink and it would cause some to go out of business. I didn’t read the NY Times article because I didn’t register, so I don’t know if they’re one of those on the edge enough that they’d go out of business. But I don’t see anything wrong with the logic posted in this article.

    The cost of self-insurance is part of the reimbursement an employee gets. No matter what the cost of the insurance is, they either need to increase each employee’s salary by the amount they no longer pay, or they are effectively giving their employee a pay cut. All you’re doing is changing something that used to be paid as health insurance to something that has to be paid directly as salary.

    Wouldn’t you consider completely losing your health coverage while remaining at the same salary a pay cut?

    And they still have the $2000/employee fine to pay.

    So yes, there is still an overall increase of $2,000 per employee unless they cut each employee’s reimbursement package by anywhere from $3,000 to $15,600 a year (using your figures).

  25. I am not a lawyer, but my understanding is that it is legal until it is overturned or stayed by a court. Then it can be appealed and works its way up the court system.

  26. I guesss by a third party payer, you are talking about people having health insurance. (Let me know if I am misunderstanding). Europeans have health insurance and their overall health care costs are much less expensive. Most people would not want to be uninsured; it could be quite expensive to be not insured. A catastrophic bill can (and does) bankrupt a family. Maintenance drugs and other services can be quite expensive. What do you suggest?

  27. Okay @Will, answering your questions down here.

    There have been a number of ways this has been done. The cost of paying people for all the paperwork involved in billing insurance is one big cost saving and also makes it possible for a doctor to spend more time per patient: the stuff I’ve seen talks about doctors going from having to see a patient every 15 or 20 minutes to being able to spend an hour with the patient (averages, of course). It looks like you can get the appt cost down to close to what the insurance co-pays tend to be.

    Some clinics hire retired health professionals who want to work part-time. Others have a class of patients who maintain high deductible insurance and pay a flat fee to the clinic and still save money – I don’t know if that one will still be possible if Obamacare is the only game in town. In that kind of situation, the patients who pay the flat fee help the clinic to be able to serve the patients without insurance.

    As for medications and tests, the doctors can negotiate to get the fees down quite a bit.

    Most of these scenarios seem to be doctors who expect at least some portion of their patients to have a high deductible insurance for the really high-ticket items they can’t negotiate down, so we’d need to figure out how to handle that if that kind of insurance is no longer allowed. I don’t know – does ObamaCare allow any flexibility in health insurance?

  28. I left out that the doctors can negotiate lower prices because they can pay suppliers directly, so they don’t have the cost of going through insurance and waiting to be paid.

  29. But doesn’t it cost them time, and therefore money, to do the negotiations?

  30. Sure, but those are regular business to business negotiations. And it can take months for health professionals to get paid by insurance. And then they might find out they won’t get paid as much as they thought or at all. Better to be paid a lower amount you can be sure of, right away, than an uncertain amount in three to six months.

    Have you ever gone to a dentist that gave you a 5 or 10% discount for paying right away by cash or check, instead of having them bill you? Lots of people don’t have dental insurance, and I’ve been through times when I didn’t have it, so I’ve been to a dental office that does that. Except with various medical suppliers, on a business to business basis, you can do better.

  31. the NY Times and EWTN. Pigs have flown, but look for the NY Times to go after EWTN showing that paper’s true colors in attacks on the Catholic Church.

    EWTN founder I predict will be a saint of the Church. More authentic Catholic teaching has come our of that orgainzation since its founding than any other in this country I am aware of today. Those that hate it might at least turn in each day for the rosary or is that taboo also.

    You nailed it Daniel. I have a grandson that is being confirmed this year and we are going to again here that they must become a soldier for Christ. Also just got an email we are stating to pray the prayer to St Michael after each mass.
    Pope John Paul II called for this but the USCCB ignored him. It is said on EWTN all the time.

    Saint Michael the Archangel,
    defend us in battle.
    Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
    May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
    and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
    by the Divine Power of God -
    cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
    who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.


  32. Klaire, Little bit of info as we have discussed this with lawyers who are working on the entire matter. ObamaCare includes a massive increase in the IRS. The Obama team which promised no tax increases for those making under $200-250,000 but in their fight to the supreme court they now are arguing this is indeed not some mandate, but a tax. Thus, if the court allows this idiotic argument, then the IRS has the power and now the manpower to come after your assets, your salary, or whatever else they want and will be protectd by law. If the court rules that this is a tax, the supreme court can punt on any decision out until the first tax is due and not been paid and goes to court which could throw this out for decision until 2014 or later. they have assigned lawyers to look into that position and report to them. This could mean that it becomes mandatory if we do not want to have ObamaCare, that the only recourse is to vote the Democratic Party along with Obama out of office in numbers big enough to take this entire bill down with repeal. Obama will have to run on the fact that he lied about taxing those under his magic thumb label for who is rich since he has to apply the law to everyone.

    The attack on religious liberty is another problem for the democrats with Obamacare which is why they are trying to change the topic. So you have the majority of the states in lawsuit with this administration on ObamaCare, a number of states filing lawsuits on the issue of immigration, and the USCCB talking about lawsuit joining in with a number of Catholic organization in lawsuites over religious liberty. In addition, the administration has had to give 2,000 plus waivers to organizations which is being also sent to a lawsuit when it goes into force as illegal. It shows what happens when 2,000 page plus bills are passed that even those voting do not know what has been put in them.

    What is being exposed in massive incompetence driven by ideology and arrogance runk amoke. Look for democrats in congress to start distancing themselves from Obama very soon.

  33. Will there are multiple reports by almost every economic group showing costs have already escalated. But best source is that this year almost everyone saw massive changes in both coverage and costs much higher than has been seen in a while unless you are covered under some union contract or have one of the magic political waivers from Obama.

  34. EWTN has this well documented and laid out on their website and it has also been detailed on most of their programs. those who seem surprised are going to be surprised by a lot more in ObamaCare they do not understand. As this leaks out piece by piece through the litigation, look for ObamaCare popularity to plummet. I have heard that the House will introduce legislation for repeal this summer forcing a vote on it or to show who is blocking repeal and wants to run on that program. Democrats have a huge number of Democrats up for election this year.

  35. Doctors can do this, but there are serious issues involved. First you have to refuse to see Medicare and Medicaid patients. this could leave many without physicians. We are already short an estimated 40,000 primary care doctors in this country now. Many are starting to open concierge practices where they charge as much as $1,500 a year just to keep them for your doctor and limiting practice size to about 25% of the patients giving them quality care. ObamaCare did little to fix the shortage, but also added a lot of paperwork that has to be submitted to the government on each patient which most see being used for the “death panels” that was denied by we now see exist with the mandate on what is covered and soon what will no longer be covered.

    This thing called ObamaCare is a pig that will not fly and will take down the country with it if not repealed.

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