Biden’s HHS Mendacity

Biden’s HHS Mendacity October 12, 2012

Earlier today I assailed Joe Biden’s incoherent view on abortion.  His assertion regarding the HHS mandate was not so much morally incoherent as it was just blatantly false.  I don’t mean “misleading” or “lacking context” or “a matter of perspective” or “it depends on your definition” (all of which seems to pass for “lying” in political discourse these days).  I mean it’s simply, objectively, black-and-white false.

Here were his words:

“With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.”

I won’t say that Biden’s lying, because it’s possible — in fact I find it highly likely — that he simply has no idea what he’s talking about.  I find that to be a helpful assumption in general when interpreting Joe Biden.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops — which, remember, opposed the Bush administration on matters of war, the death penalty, and many social policies (which is to say: we’re not talking about a right-wing cabal) — had this to say:

This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain “religious employers.” That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to “Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital,” or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.
HHS has proposed an additional “accommodation” for religious organizations like these, which HHS itself describes as “non-exempt.” That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation “to pay for contraception” and “to be a vehicle to get contraception.” They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.

Paul Ryan’s response to Biden’s baffling denial was apt: “If the Catholic Church agreed with you, why do they keep suing you?”  Apparently the Catholic Church as well as any number of Protestant charities and schools and businesses are filing lawsuits just for the entertainment value.

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  • John Haas

    The bishops made one false statement, and one tendentious statement.

    Tha false statement: “they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage . . .” This is not true. No employer is required to “provide” health insurance for their employees.

    The tendentious statement: “They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.” The bishops–or some of them–say this because they’ve adopted a rather capacious view of fungibility. But on a view so capacious, they’re already “paying for these things” by using health-insurance providers who offer “these things” in any plan.

  • Craig

    Here’s the argument of the U.S. Bishops: The government is forcing some catholic organizations to pay for contraception because, on pain of a mandatory fee, they must pay for their employees’ health insurance–insurance which their employees can then, if they wish, use for contraception.

    If this shows a violation of religious freedom, then the Bishops have a lot more to worry about. On pain of a more severe mandatory fee, the same Catholic organizations have to pay their employees the federal minimum wage–wages which their employees can likewise, if they wish, use for contraception, or even for pornography, abortion, and devil worship!

    Since these Catholic organizations are already paying for pornography, abortion, and devil worship, why such a fuss about contraception?

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      The Catholic Church — and various Protestant entities as well — do not want to be forced to cover procedures that they regard as equivalent to murder. It’s easy to understand. The law should not coerce religious organizations to pay for procedures they regard as the worst moral outrage. Imagine that you ran a business and the law were telling you that if you want to provide health insurance, you have to put money into Apex Health Insurance. One thing that Apex Health Insurance does with that money is feed environmentalists into ovens, because it regards environmentalists as a thorn in their side. It also waterboards Muslims because, well, just for the heck of it.

      How would you feel about that law?

      • Jeremy

        Also, insurance coverage for a service makes it more likely that people will consume that service (since it’s available at lower or no marginal cost to them).

  • All employers except for churches and other “religious institutions” — hospitals and charities don’t qualify — are required to pay for contraception, either directly (if self-insured) or indirectly (through insurance which must cover “essential health benefits” under ObamaCare).

    And the administration’s “accommodation” is a whitewash. Employer pays insurance company which pays for contraception — just another link in the chain.

    Thus, Biden’s claims are the opposite of the truth.

  • Tomorrow, Saturday, October 20, is the day when Americans will rally against the HHS mandate at more than 140 locations across the country.

    Let’s get the message out!