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?
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.
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?