We are Catholics. And we will be heard.
Containing health care costs is a little bit like trying to stuff an elephant into an old-fashioned telephone booth.
You push one part in, and another part comes busting back out.
The Affordable Health Care Act was supposed to control health care costs and make health coverage available to all Americans. It was also supposed to provide conscience exemptions and to not fund abortions.
So far, things are working out too well.
The HHS Mandate, which is a government regulation designed to implement the Affordable Health Care Act puts the promises of protecting conscience to the lie. Massive block grants for “sex education,” i.e., indoctrination in sexual disorders, to Planned Parenthood put the promises about not funding abortion to the lie.
We’re down to the “affordable” part of the Affordable Health Care Act, and it’s not looking so good, either.
The main problem, (surprise!) is profiteering by drug companies and how elected officials in the various states respond to this.
Let me give you a hint: If the drug companies can buy the FDA and the United States Congress, do you seriously think they can’t also buy the various state legislatures?
If other legislatures are like the one here in Oklahoma, all they really need to flat-out buy is three people: The Speaker of the House, the Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Governor. They can then spread a little money around (in the form of legal campaign donations and dinners) to all the munchkin/puppet legislators sitting behind desks on the floor and the deal is done and done.
They win. The people — or at least those who get cancer — are bankrupt.
Oklahoma is a state where the House leadership adjourned the legislative session for several days a couple of years ago, so the leadership and a few hand-picked legislators could go on a junket. Rumor has it that the Senate has done the same thing not so very long ago.
So …. you fill in the dots about where the people stand in all this.
The Affordable Health Care Act may not turn out to be all that affordable for little guys who are trying to chug a serious illness. It has already proven to be a dreadnought that is blasting away at freedom of conscience with the full force of the federal government. As for not funding abortions, if Planned Parenthood was speaking candidly, all they would say is, ka-ching, ka-ching.
From the Associated Press:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Cancer patients could face high costs for medications under President Barack Obama’s health care law, industry analysts and advocates warn.
Where you live could make a huge difference in what you’ll pay.
To try to keep premiums low, some states are allowing insurers to charge patients a hefty share of the cost for expensive medications used to treat cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and other life-altering chronic diseases.
Such “specialty drugs” can cost thousands of dollars a month, and in California, patients would pay up to 30 percent of the cost. For one widely used cancer drug, Gleevec, the patient could pay more than $2,000 for a month’s supply, says the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
New York is taking a different approach, setting flat dollar copayments for medications. The highest is $70, and it would apply to specialty drugs as well.
Critics fear most states will follow California’s lead, and that could defeat the purpose of Obama’s overhaul, because some of the sickest patients may be unable to afford their prescriptions.
“It’s important that the benefit design not discriminate against people with chronic illness, and high copays do that,” said Dan Mendelson, president of Avalere Health, a data analysis firm catering to the health care industry and government.
Avalere’s research shows that 1 in 4 cancer patients walks away from the pharmacy counter empty-handed when facing a copay of $500 or more for a newly prescribed drug.
“You have to worry about a world where if you happen to contract cancer or multiple sclerosis, you are stuck with a really big bill,” Mendelson said. “It’s going to be very important for states to take a long, hard look at their benefit design.”
Although the money for covering uninsured Americans is coming from Washington, the heath care law gives states broad leeway to tailor benefits, and the local approach can also allow disparities to emerge.
A spokesman for Covered California said state officials are trying to balance between two conflicting priorities: comprehensive coverage and affordable premiums.
“We are trying to keep the insurance affordable across the board,” said Dana Howard, the group’s spokesman. “This is just part of trying to manage the overall risk of the pool.” Covered California is one of the new state marketplaces where people who don’t get coverage on the job will be able to shop for private insurance starting this fall. Coverage takes effect Jan. 1.
Insurers are forecasting double-digit premium increases for individual policies, as people with health problems flock to buy coverage previously denied them. The Obama administration says the industry warnings are overblown, and that for many consumers, premium increases will be offset by tax credits to help buy insurance. And officials say it’s important to realize that the law sets overall limits on patients’ liability, even if those seem high to some people. Still, a full picture of costs and benefits isn’t likely to come into focus until the fall.
Howard said California officials are aware of the concerns about drug costs and are trying to make medications more affordable.
Meanwhile, he said consumers will be protected because the law limits total out-of-pocket costs — the deductibles and copayments that policy holders are responsible for, apart from monthly premiums. In California, the annual out-of-pocket limit for an individual is $6,400, although it can be as low as $2,250 for low-income people. Once that limit is reached, insurance pays 100 percent.
That’s still a lot of money, and such reassurances haven’t dispelled the concerns. (Read the rest here.)
Now, here’s a surprise.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that the agency will go ahead with enforcement of the HHS Mandate on August 1.
Sebelius, more than any other government official, is responsible for this broadside against religious freedom. The hand-picked committee that wrote this regulation operated under her agency’s control. That is not to gainsay that President Obama signed it and has backed it to the max, despite promises he made to pro life Democratic members of Congress.
The Affordable Health Care Act, often called Obamacare, includes provisions for freedom of conscience and religious exemptions. The President also made public promises to Democratic Congressmen, primarily Congressman Bart Stupak, on this issue. The President was forced to do this in order to pass the Affordable Health Care Act. Former Congressman Stupak signed a letter in opposition to the HHS Mandate in which he referred to these promises and said that the President had failed to live up to them.
The Affordable Health Care Act included provisions that the Health and Human Services Department would promulgate rules and regulations to enforce the law. The committee charged with this came up with the HHS Mandate, which broke the President’s word and created what seems to be an on-going attack on religious liberty in America. Membership of this committee contained a heavy component of Planned Parenthood and abortion advocates.
Secretary Sebelius is the former Governor of Kansas. During her tenure as governor, she went so far as to use her power as the state’s highest elected official to publicly campaign against and defeat pro life Democratic state Senator Mark Gilstrap, presumably for opposing her on the issue of abortion. She also received and accepted large campaign donations from Dr George Tiller, the controversial doctor who was infamous for performing late-term abortions in Wichita, Kansas. Dr Tiller was murdered in 2009.
All this is to say that the HHS Mandate is not, as its supporters like to claim, a law. It is a regulation written by a committee of unelected, hand-picked abortion supporters many of whom were financially connected to organizations that will benefit from the mandate. As such, it has very little to do with “women’s health” or access to birth control, and a great deal to do with using the power of government to attack and, if possible, destroy, organizations that these groups such as Planned Parenthood see as their political opponents.
That committee was not a balanced and reasonable group of citizens working in good faith. It was a hanging jury designed to use the Affordable Health Care Act to promote the viewpoint of a few organizations and one side of the culture wars.
An article from The Washington Times concerning Sebelius’ plans to implement the HHS Mandate August 1, says in part:
President Obama’s top health official said Monday the administration will finalize its new rules granting free birth control, saying the controversial policy will go into effect in August.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius‘ comments came the same day that the public comment period for the contraception mandate ended, and even as a bevy of nonprofit groups and companies are fighting in court to overturn it.
“As of Aug. 1, 2013, every employee who doesn’t work directly for a church or a diocese will be included in the benefit package,” Mrs. Sebelius said at a forum moderated by Reuters that was held at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Americans have the right to petition their government.
Eighty-five thousand of us took advantage of that right by commenting on the latest version of the HHS Mandate. This isn’t the first go-round of this process where the mandate is concerned. Back in August 2011 when the initial rule was issued, 147,000 commenters, most of them again the Mandate, filed comments.
It is mind boggling how much political capital the Obama administration has expended on this outrageous attempt to subvert the First Amendment. One of the many things that amazes me is the President’s willingness to play games with the American people by misrepresenting the issue and deliberately deepening the divides of the culture wars that are damaging us as a society. His allegiance to Planned Parenthood evidently knows no bounds.
If there’s one thing I know about politics, it’s that you don’t quit until the fight is over. This fight won’t be over until we have preserved the right to religious freedom for all Americans.
This article from the National Catholic Register gives a run-down of the history of this fight so far.
WASHINGTON — More than 85,000 parties have filed comments ahead of today’s 11:59pm Eastern time deadline to respond to the federal government about the latest version of its mandate that forces employers to provide contraceptives, abortifacients and sterilization in their employee health-insurance plans.
“There is still a lot of energy behind this in the Catholic community,” said Anthony Picarello Jr., associate general secretary and general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which urged Catholics and people of good will to submit their comments with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
More than 147,000 comments — most critical of the mandate — were previously filed when the government’s initial rule was issued in August 2011 and when the Obama administration proposed its first accommodation in February 2012.
The bishops’ March 20 report said last year’s proposed accommodation was inadequate and that the administration’s latest version of the mandate still violates religious liberty and conscience rights.
The USCCB filed its 26-page comment with HHS on March 20. The report said the mandate was virtually unchanged and that its religious “exemption“ still excludes most religious organizations and does not remove the burden on religious freedom.
The Eternal Word Television Network also filed a comment, asserting that the government’s proposed rule does not permit anyone other than a church to be exempt from the mandate, noting that religious beliefs and conscience objections are held by people and organizations that are not churches.
The government is essentially forcing EWTN — which owns the Register — and other objecting parties to call contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing pills “good” and to pay for them, without deductibles or co-pays by employees, says the filing, which was signed by EWTN President and CEO Michael Warsaw and General Counsel John Manos.
EWTN’s comment says, “At the heart of this dispute is whether EWTN or persons with similar beliefs must use their bodies and money to support this erroneous belief under government force. The Constitution restrains the government from forcing its beliefs on individuals, particularly any religious belief.”
“Yet this mandate persists to force EWTN and others to part with money and their health under threat of government force,” the filing adds. “Thus this fight is not about providing health care; it is about an erroneous belief, which the government accepts as a foregone conclusion, that contraceptives, voluntary sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs are health care. EWTN refuses, by exercising the rights guaranteed to it by the same government, to swallow this error and merely ‘go along.’”
Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/tens-of-thousands-beat-deadline-to-protest-hhs-mandate?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-04-8%2023:11:01#ixzz2PyzUbEtA
I focused on Holy Week issues last week.
I would love to continue doing the same thing this first week of Easter. In fact, it might be nice to never do anything else. But the world and our duty to engage the world for Christ goes on.
Challenges to the HHS Mandate continue to wend their way through the judicial process.
Hobby Lobby was granted a hearing of its appeal against the HHS Mandate before a full federal panel of nine judges. Most appeals are heard by three judges. The fact that the whole panel will hear this one reflects the seriousness of the issue involved. I can think of few issues more serious than whether or not the First Amendment applies to applies to everyone.
We need to continue to support both EWTN and Hobby Lobby, as well as all others who have stepped up to fight for our freedoms. I got paid today. I’ll be too busy to do any shopping for a few days, but the first chance I get, I’m heading to Hobby Lobby. I may top it off with lunch at Chick Fil-A. I hope you do the same.
Washington D.C., Apr 1, 2013 / 05:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Christian-owned craft giant Hobby Lobby will be able to make its appeal against the federal contraception mandate before a full federal panel of nine judges, rather than the usual three.
“Full court review is reserved only for the most serious legal questions,” explained Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in a press release on March 29. The Becket Fund is representing the owners of Hobby Lobby in court.
Duncan said that the decision to grant a full nine-judge hearing speaks to the gravity of the issue.
“This case asks whether the First Amendment protects everyone’s right to religious freedom, or whether it leaves out religious business owners like the Greens,” he explained.
As its religious freedom case comes before a federal court, Hobby Lobby had petitioned for an “en banc” hearing, or an appeals hearing before the full bench of nine judges.
“We are grateful that the court granted Hobby Lobby’s petition,” said Duncan. (Read more here.)
Meanwhile, EWTN’s lawsuit against the HHS Mandate was dismissed by an Alabama court because the court said the case “wasn’t ripe.” I would make a comment about the choice of the word “ripe,” but it’s too easy. EWTN has vowed to fight on.
If you’re getting the idea that going to court is a roll of the dice, you’re right. It all depends on which judge you draw and if their lunch agreed with them.
Birmingham, Ala., Mar 26, 2013 / 12:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The EWTN Global Catholic Network is “extremely disappointed” by a Monday court ruling that dismissed as “unripe” its lawsuit against a federal mandate that could require the organization to violate Catholic teaching.
“Contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs are not healthcare. EWTN cannot and will not compromise our strongly held beliefs on these moral issues,” EWTN President and CEO Michael P. Warsaw said March 25.
On Monday Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn of the U.S. District Court in Birmingham dismissed the Irondale, Ala.-based organization’s lawsuit until new regulations are “created and finalized.” The March 25 court decision agreed that EWTN has standing to sue, but it sided with Obama administration lawyers who contended that the case is not ripe for review. (Read more here.)
The suggestion is late to the party, but it is about time it finally came.
The Roman Catholic Bishops here in America have finally asked Congressional supporters of religious freedom to do what they should have done in the first place: Make the HHS Mandate a bargaining chip in political “cliff” negotiations.
I’ve maintained all along that if the House Republicans had made the HHS Mandate the bargaining chip in the 2012 cliff fight over extending the debt limit, the HHS Mandate would never have gone into effect. It was one of those rare opportunities when political brinksmanship might have been about something besides the egos of the players and the wishes of the moneyed interests who control them.
What they did instead was engage in their usual fight to get more tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.
The bishops have finally decided to call for such action directly. They sent a letter to members of Congress, asking them to make the HHS Mandate a bargaining point in the next found of fiscal cliff stand-offs.
All I can say is, it’s about time.
In fact, it’s past time.
It’s not easy for political outsiders to see through the smoke and mirrors of political maneuvering. But it appears that the bishops are beginning to figure it out.
As usual, I support the bishops in this 100%.
A Reuters article describing the bishops’ letter says in part:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Roman Catholic bishops stepped up their battle against President Obama’s contraceptives policy on Friday by urging Congress to use its fiscal debate to free religious employers from a mandate requiring insurance coverage for birth control.
In a letter to all 535 members of Congress, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore suggested two provisions to extend existing federal conscience protections to the contraceptives mandate and strengthen the ability of opponents to seek vindication in federal court.
“The federal government’s respect for believers and people of conscience no longer measures up to the treatment Americans have a right to expect from their elected representatives,” wrote Lori, who chairs the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“I urge you in the strongest terms possible to incorporate the provisions … in the upcoming legislative proposals to fund the federal government,” Lori added.
The conference also plans to send out an action alert via email and text message calling on supporters across the country to visit local congressional offices next week when lawmakers are home on break.
Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide health insurance coverage through group coverage plans for all contraceptives approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, including the so-called “morning after” pill.
The archbishop’s letter underscored a growing sense of urgency among church leaders over the birth control coverage rules that are due to take effect on August 1 for religiously affiliated employers including universities, hospitals and charities.
The bishops have tried several times to get Congress to act over the past year, amid numerous protests and more than 40 lawsuits by religious groups and employers. But Lori’s letter marks their first attempt to use the debates over deficit reduction, the debt limit and government funding.
“To many people, this looks like the main must-pass vehicle going through Congress this year,” said Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the conference’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. (Read more here.)
I’ve found that evil usually triumphs…unless good is very, very careful.
–DR. MCCOY, Star Trek: The Original Series, “The Omega Glory”
I’m going to take my time commenting about President Obama’s recent “compromises” on the HHS Mandate. I want to let the fur fly for a while.
In the meantime, here are a few facts and a couple of opinions that I want you to think about as we winnow through the political/media chaff.
1. President Obama did not offer this “compromise” because he was being a statesman. He was responding to the fact that his administration was under a court order to live up to its promises concerning the mandate. I wrote about this when it happened. You can find that post here.
2. Hobby Lobby’s attorney made a statement to ProLife News affirming what many people had already surmised: The President’s “compromise” will not help companies like Hobby Lobby. I will put an excerpt of this statement and another link to it below.
3. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is taking much the same approach to this “compromise” that I am. They want to read through it and think. Their statement says:
In response to today’s release of revised regulations for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, provided the following statement on behalf of the USCCB.
“Today, the Administration issued proposed regulations regarding the HHS mandate. We welcome the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely. We look forward to issuing a more detailed statement later.”
4. I gave my initial reaction to the “compromise” yesterday when I wrote HHS Mandate: Did Obama Blink? My feeling then as now is that no, he did not blink. And we shouldn’t, either.
5. My opinion is that President Obama did the least he could do and still give an appearance of cooperating with the federal court order that his administration was under. I also think that his slave dogs in the media will tout this as the “great compromise” that it is not and that members of the public who either (a) worship President Obama, or, (b) hate Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular will follow right along with this obvious lie.
The article published by ProLifeNews about the statement from Hobby Lobby’s attorney says in part:
“Today’s proposed rule does nothing to protect the religious liberty of millions of Americans. The rights of family businesses like Hobby Lobby are still being violated,” Kyle Duncan, General Counsel for The Becket Fund For Religious Liberty, said.
He said, “The Becket Fund continues to study what effect, if any, the Administration’s proposed rule has on the many lawsuits on behalf of non-profit religious organizations like Ave Maria University, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, East Texas Baptist University, EWTN, Houston Baptist University, and Wheaton College.” (Read more here.)
Great Britain’s government will vote soon on gay marriage. Christians have expressed concern that such a change in the law might result in attacks on freedom of conscience.
Supporters of the measure have rushed to assure the public that such fears are groundless.
Now, where have we heard things like this before?
Oh yes. It was President Obama, promising that Obamacare would not infringe on religious freedom and individual rights of conscience.
That was only a few months before a hand-picked committee of the Health and Human Services Department “passed” the HHS Mandate, which the same president who had made these promises signed and then misrepresented to the American people as being about “women’s health care.”
Good luck, British Christians. Judging by what has happened elsewhere, you’re going to need it.
A Christian Post article concerning the upcoming vote on same-sex marriage and freedom of conscience in Great Britain says in part:
UK Government Source: Teachers May Face Firing for Refusing to Teach Gay Marriage
Katherine Weber (“The Christian Post,” January 25, 2013)
As Great Britain’s government prepares to vote on a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, an official from the Secretary of State for Education’s office reportedly has expressed trepidation toward the bill, arguing that primary school teachers in the country could possibly lose their jobs if they do not teach about gay marriage in the classroom.
One unnamed senior source from the office of Michael Gove, who serves as the country’s current Secretary of State for Education, has recently said that ultimately the U.K. government is not in control, should a teacher lose their job for refusing to teach same-sex marriage, and the case would ultimately go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, where the European Parliament is located.
“We have had legal advice, the problem is that there is this inherent uncertainty about such matters,” the source told The Telegraph in a Jan. 25 report.
“These are all under the control of nine guys in Strasbourg, it is just fundamentally uncertain because Britain isn’t in control of this,” the source added.
Additionally, those critical of the upcoming same-sex marriage bill argue that hospital chaplains and other people in authority may be faced with difficult decisions when their conscience conflicts with their work protocol.
These statements come after human rights specialist Aidan O’Neill of the Queen’s Counsel argued on behalf of the Coalition For Marriage, a group that opposes same-sex marriage legalization, that he believes teachers, hospital or prison chaplains would be negatively affected by the legalization of the bill.
However, in response to these worries, Maria Miller, Secretary of Culture and Great Britain’s equalities minister, recently stated that teachers and the Church of England will not be put in a compromising position due to the same-sex marriage bill.(Read more here.)