Accommodation on Obamacare mandate?

The Obama administration released new guidelines meant to resolve the issue of religious institutions having to provide free contraceptive and abortifacient coverage under Obamacare.  This will have no effect on businesses run by pro-life individuals, who will still have to provide the coverage.  Read details after the jump.  So is this a solution?

From CNN:

The Obama administration proposed updated guidelines on Friday that would allow religious-affiliated organizations opposing contraception to opt out of a federal mandate requiring that they provide their employees with insurance coverage for birth control.

The draft rule would give women at non-profit, religious-based organizations, like certain hospitals and universities, the ability to receive contraception through separate health policies at no charge.

The compromise is consistent with last year’s announcement by President Barack Obama on the contraception mandate, administration officials said.

It also continues his administration’s attempts to resolve the contentious issue of how non-profit organizations can decline to provide contraception coverage to their employees on religious grounds without facing a penalty.

“Today, the administration is taking the next step in providing women across the nation with coverage of recommended preventive care at no cost, while respecting religious concerns,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.

“We will continue to work with faith-based organizations, women’s organizations, insurers and others to achieve these goals,” she said.

As part of the new initiative, groups that are insured — such as student health plans at religious colleges — would be required to let their insurer know that certain participants would like contraception coverage.

“The insurer would then notify enrollees that it is providing them with no-cost contraceptive coverage through separate individual health insurance policies,” the HHS statement said.

Although the agency has not estimated final costs of the plan, it said that offering free coverage would actually lower expenses over the long term, partly due to improvement in women’s health and fewer childbirths.

Because the insurer would be covering the costs, the changes would allow religious organizations morally opposed to contraception to avoid paying for it.

via Obama proposal would let religious groups opt-out of contraception mandate – CNN.com.

Another issue:  Is there a problem with the federal government forcing a private company to provide goods or services to the public for free?  If independent insurance companies can be forced to provide contraceptives and abortion pills, why not require the pharmaceutical companies that make them to give them away for free?  If the latter is too socialistic, can’t the same be said for the former?

Also, does this solution address the religious freedom issue?  Doesn’t religious freedom have to apply to the owners of privately held companies?  What difference does it make if Hobby Lobby does not primarily sell religious products?  The individual owners–not the products–are the ones holding a religion, and government laws that force those individuals to violate their religious beliefs are surely “prohibiting the free exercise” of their religious beliefs and thus running afoul of the First Amendment.  Aren’t they?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Trey

    If you had been in a coma for the past 5 years and you woke up and read this story, you might think that contraceptives and abortion inducing drugs were inaccessible, so the government was mandating it be provided. To your shock, it is very accessible it’s just that the government wants tax payers to foot the bill in order to reduce births. Talk about driving a stake into the heart of social security. We live in a time where reason and morality seem all, but dead. This is the postmodern ethic though.

  • The Jones

    “Although the agency has not estimated final costs of the plan, it said that offering free coverage would actually lower expenses over the long term, partly due to improvement in women’s health and fewer childbirths.”

    I get uncomfortable when the government orchestrating “fewer childbirths” is a legitimate means to fix a budget problem.

    Not only is there an ethical hurdle if it works, but there’s also a question as to whether it can even achieve the questionable end it seeks. Has greater and cheaper access to birth control, abortions, and morning after pills actually decreased the number of unwanted pregnancies? And if so, why are 40% of births to unwed mothers? Did the mothers WANT to have babies outside of a family and a husband, or is something else going on?

  • http://drhambrick.com Drhambrick

    The ACA, Planned Parenthood, the proposed BSA policy change, the whole LGBT movement, even the weapons ban on a certain level, all seems to be a conspiratorial movement towards population control.

  • Jen L

    Aside from the religious liberty issues with this, I’m so irritated by the administration’s arguments. I understand that birth control sounds like it could be preventative care, but if we look at what we mean by preventative care, it’s offensive that birth control fits into that category. Birth control is not preventing illness, it’s preventing pregnancy, which is what a healthy reproductive system produces. I’m not convinced this will result in fewer childbirths, and childbirth is expensive, but it’s a one-time thing that actually leads to better future health for most woman and adds a dependent who has premiums paid for it who will be primarily healthy and not nearly the drain on an insurance program that an elderly person is. It seems to me that whoever really thinks this will end up cheaper is thinking in the very, very short term.

  • MarkB

    For some reason I don’t trust the government, at the very least not this administration. Even if this change in policy were acceptable to various religious organizations I would rather the issue be decided in court, especially the supreme court that way it cannot be changed on a whim by this or any other administration. However, I am even worried that the Supreme Court might rule against the religious organizations.

    Maybe it is just me, but it seems like we as a country have gone along with the major premiss of Post Modernism, that there is nothing set in stone and it all depends, so laws can be made that contravert the intentions of the designers of the constitution and nothing means what it did years ago.

  • Jon

    “[F]orcing a private company to provide goods or services to the public for free?”

    Ha, ha. Companies aren’t going to really provide a product for “free.” They will just pass on the costs to someone else who will have to pay more to cover the freeloaders.

    It’s just more forced altruism, if anything, spreadin’ the wealth around.

  • fjsteve

    I get uncomfortable when the government orchestrating “fewer childbirths” is a legitimate means to fix a budget problem.

    Especially when they’re wrong. The rapid increase of availability of birth control and abortion since the late sixties/early seventies not only hasn’t reduced the numbers of unwed or otherwise unplanned pregnancies, there has been a dramatic increase–partly because along with a change in birth control availability came a change in public attitudes towards marriage as well as increases in government benefits for unwed mothers. However, despite these changing attitudes, those born out-of-wedlock still have a greater rate of poverty and criminal activity resulting in a larger class of government-dependent and a greater drain on public funds. So even from a purely pragmatic viewpoint, this plan isn’t working unless the desired result is a larger class of government-dependent.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    OK, repeat after me; there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Mr. Obama, write it 300 million times on the chalkboard before you do anything else.

    The courts should strike this nonsense down simply for its economic absurdity.

  • fjsteve

    Jon @6, that may be true for large corporations but smaller companies or companies in very competitive markets often don’t have the option to pass along costs to their customers. Many of those will be forced to take other measures like reducing the numbers of full-time employees.

  • Steve Bauer

    It’s not even that the insurance companies will pass the costs to other customers. The cost of providing “free” contraception will still be born by the religious organization, it will just be “hidden in,” “factored in,” “absorbed by, ” what the insurance company charges the organization *wink, wink* *nudge, nudge*.

    This “new” guideline is no different than the administration’s previous guideline. It is just a more deft implementation of doublespeak that operates with a logic that can say with a straight face, “The money we give to X (like Planned Parenthood) goes to support A (like PAP smears) that X does but we aren’t funding B (like abortions) that X does.”

  • DonS

    It’s “Alice in Wonderland” time, once again. And the press reports this “fix” with a straight face.

    Jen L @ 4 — yes! Exactly! Well said. Birth control is not well care. And, as Steve Bauer says @ 10, the insurance companies are not going to pick up the cost of these “free” policies out of the goodness of their hearts. This is an accounting gimmick (Democrats are especially good at those) that still requires the employer to notify the insurance company that someone wants the “free” abortifacient coverage. So:

    1) The employer is still paying,
    2) Now, the employer also has to poll their employees and notify the insurer to send interested employees a “free” policy,
    3) The employee has to tell her employer, whom she knows is morally opposed to abortifacients, that she wants them (does the Obama administration think any of this stuff through? — it doesn’t seem like it), and
    4) This “fix” doesn’t help for-profit employers who want to abide by their religious moral convictions at all.

    Is this still America?

  • Abby

    Interesting new strategy by Putin to bring up Russian birthrate: http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/01/31/56505/

    And if a couple conceives a child nine months after the concert, they win a refrigerator!

  • helen

    JenL @4 … I’m not convinced this will result in fewer childbirths, and childbirth is expensive, but it’s a one-time thing that actually leads to better future health for most woman and adds a dependent who has premiums paid for it who will be primarily healthy and not nearly the drain on an insurance program that an elderly person is.

    Planning on dying young, JenL?
    I don’t suppose you would consider that the “elderly person” paid for insurance through all those “primarily healthy” years?
    But not to worry! Obama or someone with the same mindset will shortly be proposing that hemlock be provided “free” for “elderly persons”. That way you can celebrate Grandma’s 65th birthday and her funeral on the same trip, and squabble with your siblings about her property, if she had any. [Star Trek 2nd generation had an episode about this somewhere around YR 2000, if you need to know how it's done.] :(

    adds a dependent who has premiums paid for it
    Who pays? Or is that “free”, too?

  • helen

    I just re read what you said. If you think childbirth is a “one time thing”, I guess you won’t have to argue with siblings about Grandma’s furniture. My bad! :(

  • Abby

    #12 addition: I wonder why we (U.S.) are promoting and practicing voluntary eugenics?

  • helen

    Don S4)
    This “fix” doesn’t help for-profit employers who want to abide by their religious moral convictions at all.
    Is this still America?

    It’s the United States, anyway. But “it’s not your grandfathers’ [America]!”

  • DonS

    We still have the same Constitution, helen @ 16. It would be nice if it were still respected.

  • sg

    “#12 addition: I wonder why we (U.S.) are promoting and practicing voluntary eugenics?”

    I don’t think eugenic is the right word. If men like SKP, tODD, Cinn, Veith, DonS, etc., were having ten kids, that would be voluntary eugenics.

  • Abby

    @18 I wondered about using that word, but then I thought it could fit :)

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    sg: I’ve got six. Is that eugenics, or cacagenics? :^)


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