Canning: Health care mandate tramples religious libertyWritten by Joan Canning | | email@example.com
With the enactment of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate for “free” contraception coverage, religious liberty — the inherent natural right of every individual — has been trampled.
You’ve undoubtedly heard about the HHS mandate announced Jan. 20 that will require all insurance plans to provide coverage, at no cost to the subscriber, for:
- Abortion-inducing drugs
- Patient education and counseling for women of reproductive age
When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — aka ObamaCare — was passed in March 2010, the 2,700-page monstrosity was designed to have some provisions begin six months after the law’s passage.
Then, piece by piece, more aspects of the law were rolled out, all of which have been burdensome, costly and confusing for employers who provide health plans to their employees.
The provision at issue now, defined in an August 2011 interim HHS ruling, required most new and renewing health plans to provide “preventive services” with no cost-sharing as of August 2012. The services were to include contraceptive coverage, but allowed some nonprofit religious employers the choice to refuse those services.
Then, on Jan. 20, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced a “new element” to the interim but soon to be final rule: Religious employers must also provide contraception coverage by August 2013.
Wow! Religious employers get a whole year beyond secular employers to abandon their moral consciences and obey the unelected bureaucrats’ orders. The breathtaking arrogance is illustrated in this quote from Sebelius on the new element: “I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.”
In other words: Religious employers have one year to get over themselves and realize they are unenlightened and discriminating against women.
Bottom line: Religious employers such as Catholic hospitals, Christian schools and faith-based pregnancy centers will have to provide and pay for the coverage of these services regardless of the violation to their moral conscience.
I suppose we should be grateful there is an exemption for houses of worship, albeit an exemption that is quite possibly the narrowest exemption in federal law to date. Even these houses of worship will be forced to certify their exempt status via cumbersome paperwork submitted on the government’s timetable.
You may be thinking: Why all the fuss? Wasn’t this conflict over religious liberty and moral conscience resolved with President Obama’s accommodation to religious groups announced at a Feb. 10 news conference?
Don’t be deceived. There was no accommodation. The president announced he would force insurance companies (also an abuse of power) to provide contraceptives for “free,” thus “relieving” the burden on the conscience of religious employers. The truth of the matter is the proposal:
1. Does not resolve the moral issue at the core of the matter. There is no such thing as “free” contraception. Insurance companies will increase premiums for religious groups and therefore shift the cost for the morally offensive services back to them.
2. Is unworkable for the religious groups and other employers who self-insure and are in essence both employer and insurer.
3. Was contradicted that same afternoon when the administration filed the final regulation as written in August. No changes were made.
As expected, on March 1 the Democrat-controlled Senate voted 51-48 to table the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act as amended to the Transportation appropriations bill by Sen. Roy Blunt, (R-Mo).
An excerpt from Blunt’s statement reads: “The Obama Administration’s health care mandate is an egregious violation of our First Amendment rights. Unfortunately, this is only a glimpse of what Americans can expect as a result of President Obama’s government health care takeover.”
Joan Canning is the owner of HR Advocate LLC, a Toledo-based human resource and management consulting business. Find more information at www.hradvocate.biz.