February 2, 2013
Saving money is not the best reason to limit the size and scope of government. It’s to keep government from going too far in telling us how to live. It’s to keep government from making decisions that individuals should make for themselves and their dependents. Liberty is more important than wealth.
Though most can see the obvious economic pitfalls of the Affordable Care Act (known affectionately as “Obamacare”), the most vociferous objections have come from those who fear the law will intrude into the right of individuals to make spending and health care decisions for themselves and those in their care.
We and others have blasted President Barack Obama for advocating a health care reform package that would force employers to provide coverage for abortions and contraceptives in their employee health care plans. The requirement would have forced religious based employers, such as Catholic Charities, to pay for goods and services that offend their moral convictions. By doing so, government would interfere with the constitutionally protected free exercise of religion. To freely exercise a religious conviction, one may have to forgo paying for goods and services that he or she deem immoral.
So, it is with great enthusiasm that we applaud the Obama administration for making an effort on Friday to diffuse the lingering controversy by creating an exemption for religion-affiliated employers.
“The rules proposed today by HHS (Department of Health and Human Services) appear to go a long way toward rectifying the most problematic provisions of the mandate,” said Bill Donohue, head of the Catholic League, in a prepared statement.
Advocates of the contraceptives mandate had a legitimate concern. They didn’t want women, working for health care, as a substantial portion of their compensation, only to have their reproductive choices dictated by an employer.
“This policy delivers on the promise of women having access to birth control without co-pays no matter where they work,” said Planed Parenthood President Cecile Richards, who was also pleased with Friday’s compromise.
“This policy makes it clear that your boss does not get to decide whether you can have birth control.”
Until Friday, Obamacare exempted only churches, temples, mosques, synagogues and other worship-based employers. Affiliated institutions — such as religious charities, hospitals and universities — remained under the mandate.
Friday’s compromise greatly expands the kinds of employers who will qualify for exemptions while protecting the president’s promise of contraceptives and sterilizations for all. Under the new arrangement, any organization recognized by the IRS as a religious nonprofit gets to opt out of the reproductive mandates.
Employees of exempt employers will receive separate plans to cover the costs of the controversial goods and services. Insurance companies, for now, will get stuck with the cost. We suspect they’ll find a way to pass it on as overhead, or to pass it on to the government, but the arrangement absolves employers of paying directly for that which they find morally offensive.
Politics is the art of compromise, and it appears all players — except for insurance companies — are pleased with Friday’s announcement. We’re not happy to see insurance companies get stuck with the bill, for now, but it’s a better arrangement than one that flirts with eroding a fundamental protection of the First Amendment. We commend all parties for finding a compromise that just might work.