Affordable Healthcare Concession

From AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration on Friday proposed a work-around for religious nonprofits that object to providing health insurance that covers birth control.

The government’s new regulation attempts to create a barrier between religious groups and contraception coverage, through insurers or a third party, that would still give women free access to contraception. It wasn’t immediately clear whether would accept the new approach, or whether it would stem the tide of lawsuits across the country that have challenged the requirement to provide such coverage.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had no immediate reaction, saying it was studying the regulations. Policy analyst Sarah Lipton-Lubet of the American Civil Liberties Union said the rule appeared to meet the ACLU’s goal of providing “seamless coverage” of birth control for the affected women.

In its new rule, the Department of Health and Human Services argued that the change wouldn’t impose new costs on insurers because it would save them money “from improvements in women’s health and fewer child births.”….

The new health care law requires most employers, including faith-affiliated hospitals and nonprofits, to provide health insurance that includes artificial contraception, including sterilization, as a free preventive service. The goal, in part, is to help women space out pregnancies to promote health.

Under the original rule, only those religious groups which primarily employ and serve people of their own faith – such as churches – were exempt. But other religiously affiliated groups, such as church-affiliated universities and Catholic Charities, were told they had to comply.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://www.apprentice2jesus.wordpress.com Dan

    This is something that could have easily been done when the issue first cropped up. It has precedent. That it took this long for the administration to put this solution forward is, quite simply, perplexing.

  • http://www.thethousandmarch.com Nathan Willard

    Here’s an interesting and related link from NPR’s planet money:

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2013/01/29/170583430/episode-432-the-price-of-free-breast-pumps

    The main relevant idea being – these things may be good, but most likely do not save money.

  • Jeremy
  • Diane

    I’m astonished that providing women with birth control has caused such an uproar. I can scarcely fathom it. I hope this makes the controversy die down. A solution would be putting everyone on Medicare.

  • Joe Canner

    This seems like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. If a company feels it needs to control how its employees live their lives and is opposed on principle to its money ending up being used for contraception, then what difference should it make how many intermediates there are? While I don’t agree with the opposition to the contraceptive mandate in the first place, I think any company who previously objected to the mandate but would accept this has some serious integrity problems.

  • EricW

    They should change the name to the “UN-Affordable Care Act”: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/irs-cheapest-obamacare-plan-will-be-20000-family

  • EricW
  • Jag

    Businesses lobbied to keep our health insurance system employer-based (a Chamber of Commerce position). They want to be in charge of administering health insurance, despite the overhead costs of doing so, but they don’t want government telling them they have to offer a basic level of care. Suppose the CEO didn’t believe in chemo? Or vaccinations? Or depression?

    The idea that employees have a choice of employers may have been true in the past, but no longer. Forcing an employee to choose between accepting the CEO’s religious beliefs as they relate to her health care or be unemployed is wrong.

  • Rob Henderson

    Joe, there was no need for a contraceptive mandate to start with. This is all about political maneuvering.

  • Richard

    EricW, 5

    Here’s my favorite part in your link: conservative-minded folks like CNSNEWS are finally upset over high health coverage costs in the United States but they’re blaming the ACA*. It totally ignores present day data that the premiums for insuring a family are already at 16K and historical increases will easily raise it to 20K by 2015 (the year the IRS is estimating for).

    I think conservatives aren’t as outraged by current health coverage costs because the lion’s share of that premium is paid by the employer (and hidden from most eyes), not the employee: http://www.kff.org/insurance/snapshot/chcm121112oth.cfm

    *for the record, I’d love to scrap ACA because its forcing people into the Corporate maws of ‘Big Pharma’ and insurance middlemen. I’d rather move to single-payer, which would be a huge burden lifted off of the private and non-profit sectors and far more efficient for our economy

  • Richard

    Rob Henderson 8,

    For many women it isn’t primarily driven by their sex lives- it relates to coping with body chemistry or in some cases even offsetting serious health issues. These medicines are multi-purpose. Why shouldn’t employee insurance be mandated to actually cover their medicine?

  • EricW

    Agreed, Richard. Part of the reason for high healthcare costs seems to be the way our healthcare insurance system is structured. And the Affordable Care Act, per some articles I’ve read, is like manna from heaven for the health insurance companies.

  • Joe Canner

    Rob #9: Perhaps so, but access to contraceptives seems like a pretty basic aspect of health care these days, both for the reasons mentioned by Richard in #11 as well as for controlling fertility. It’s a bit perverse for conservatives to want to restrict abortion while at the same time making it difficult for women to get adequate contraception.

  • http://aloveaffairwithwords.blogspot.com Jenn

    I’m not sure how the conversation changed from “Women should have access to contraceptive care” to “Employers and/or the government should be forced to pay for any contraceptive care a woman might need or desire”.

    I haven’t researched it extensively, so I might be wrong, but as far as I know, none of the organizations protesting this law are trying to prevent their employees from taking birth control. They just don’t want to pay for it.

    Why should contraceptives (regardless of the reason for their use) receive special treatment? I have seasonal allergies, for which my doctor prescribes Nasonex. I pay every time I fill that prescription. I don’t expect my employer to pay for that. Why should the Pill be any different?

  • Rob Henderson

    Joe #13 Richard #11
    My son works for one of these so-called non-profit religious organizations and they already were allowing for contraception within their health-care coverage. The President’s choice to make an issue out of no issue to simply shore up his political base troubled me. The organization then felt it needed to make a stand because they were being forced to do something that they were already doing with a power move by the State. Somebody in the highest level either didn’t do their homework or did and this was just politics.

  • Diane

    Jenn,

    The New York Times explains it this way:

    “insurance companies benefit from increased use of contraception, because they don’t have to pay for as many births or the complications of pregnancy. Several studies have found that there is virtually no cost to an insurance company of paying for birth control because of those offsetting reductions.”

    In other words, it’s economics–paying for your allergy meds doesn’t have the same financial benefit to an insurance company as does paying for birth control.

  • Richard

    The exception doesn’t prove the rule Rob. There were/are plenty of groups that refused to offer coverage of contraceptives without a copay. Hence the need for standardized policies.

  • Ryan

    As a male then does this mean my employer or any business should be mandated by the government to by condoms for me?

    The framing has been manipulative on this from the beginning. NO ONE is arguing that women should not be allowed to have contraception, just that their boss does not have to pay for it. I think liberals would be all for this as why do you want your employer getting involved in what you do with your sex life?

  • http://aloveaffairwithwords.blogspot.com Jenn

    Diane,

    Thanks for the response. I haven’t seen that article, but it does make me wonder – if what it claims is true (that is, that covering contraceptives doesn’t end up costing the insurance companies anything), then why is it necessary for the government to mandate coverage? After all, we all agree that the insurance companies are there to make money (and are vilified for it). If it really is less expensive for them, why aren’t they doing it? Why get the law involved at all?

  • Fish

    Contraceptives may make it cheaper for the insurance company, but that doesn’t mean anything when it comes to coverage. The companies will make even more money if the consumer buys the contraceptives.

    One common misunderstanding of the free market is that cost reductions and cost increases are always passed along to the consumer. To the contrary, since the marketplace sets the price at which consumers choose to buy or not to buy, the wise company does not reduce its prices because its costs go down — they increase their profit.

    I own a small business, and cost reduction means more profit for me. If I buy widgets at $10 and sell it them at the going price of $30, I make $20. If I buy widgets at $5, I still sell at $30, and I make $25.

    Similarly, if my taxes go up but the market price of a widget is still $30, I can’t pass that increase along. Instead, my profit decreases. When a company says their prices will increase because of taxes, they are probably either totally unaware of modern marketing, selling a commodity with a slim margin, in cahoots with all the other firms in the space, or blowing smoke in order to maintain their profit. Only a fool sets his prices based on his expenses.


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