Freedom of Religion

The Times Continues to Present Obama's Spin on His Contraceptive Policy As Fact

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In a story about legislation aimed at modifying the Obama administration's requirement that health plans cover contraception and sterilization, The New York Times once again reports the president's spin as fact (emphasis added):

Under the administration policy, most health plans must cover birth control for women — all contraceptive drugs and devices approved by the Food and Drug Administration — as well as sterilization procedures.

Church-affiliated universities, hospitals and charities would not have to provide or pay for such coverage. Instead, the White House says, coverage for birth control could be offered to women directly by their employers' insurance companies, "with no role for religious employers who oppose contraception."

[Sen. Roy] Blunt said, "The president's so-called compromise is nothing more than an accounting gimmick."

Why does Blunt call the purported compromise an "accounting gimmick"? Times reporter Robert Pear never explains, perhaps because that would force him to admit it's not really true that "church-affiliated universities, hospitals and charities would not have to provide or pay for such coverage." The day after President Obama announced his alleged accommodation, Harvard economist Greg Mankiw noted that it did not change the essence of the policy:

Consider these two policies:

A. An employer is required to provide its employees health insurance that covers birth control.

B. An employer is required to provide its employees health insurance.  The health insurance company is required to cover birth control.

I can understand someone endorsing both A and B, and I can understand someone rejecting both A and B.  But I cannot understand someone rejecting A and embracing B, because they are effectively the same policy.  Ultimately, all insurance costs are passed on to the purchaser, so I cannot see how policy B is different in any way from policy A, other than using slightly different words to describe it.

Yet it seems that the White House yesterday switched from A to B, and that change is being viewed by some as a significant accommodation to those who objected to policy A.  The whole thing leaves me scratching my head.

Even Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, who applauded the rhetorical shift, acknowledged this reality: 

This is, of course, a dodge — a quite clever and positive one. Everyone gets to say that the religious institutions aren't "paying for" contraception. But if covering contraception ends up costing them money, you can be sure those costs will be passed along, as costs always are, to customers.

Marcus then echoes the administration's argument that the contraceptive mandate may not result in higher premiums because it will save insurers money on pregnancy-related health care. If so, of course, that would have been true under the original version of the policy as well. In his congressional testimony on February 16, Catholic University President John Garvey questioned the cost-saving argument (which he dubbed the "Shazam Theory") but also said the net financial impact of the mandate is beside the point:

From a moral point of view, the administration's cost savings don't matter even if they are real.  When a student who is enrolled in our plan purchases contraceptives at the local CVS pharmacy, CVS will seek payment from the insurance company.  The payment for that service will be charged to our account, funded by our contributions.  The Shazam Theory assumes that charges for other drugs and services will go down as a result of contraceptive use.  But it is still true that the University and its subscribers are being forced to pay for sterilizations, contraceptives, and abortions [a reference to the possibility that some contraceptives may prevent implantation after fertilization], and those are activities we view as immoral.

I don't expect the Times to endorse these critiques. But it should at least clarify that the issue of whether church-affiliated organizations still have to pay for birth control coverage is contested, and maybe even explain why. Here is a short version:

The Obama administration says its new policy means church-affiliated universities, hospitals and charities won't have to provide or pay for such coverage. Blunt says "the president's so-called compromise is nothing more than an accounting gimmick" because the cost of the coverage will be reflected in the premiums employers pay.

Here is an optional addition:

The administration says the contraceptive mandate won't raise premiums because it will save insurers money by preventing pregnancies. Even if that's true, critics say, church-affiliated organizations still have to pay for health plans that cover products and services they consider immoral.

Without such explanations, the continuing controversy will be unintelligible to the average reader.

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89 responses to “The Times Continues to Present Obama's Spin on His Contraceptive Policy As Fact

  1. Without such explanations, the continuing controversy will be unintelligible to the average reader.

    Which of course is the entire point. Duh!

    1. Exactly. Mission accomplished.

      1. Exactly. Its so things like the Elizabeth Warren banner ad im seeing right now can go claim “stop the GOP’s attacks on womens’ health” can say these tings and get away with it without addressing the actual issue being argued.

        1. Click it. Reason will get some money in exchange for directing traffic to the product. Then delete your cookies.

  2. what if I’m not a federally recognized religious entity? What if I don’t want to provide that sort of coverage for my employer? What if I run a religiously-oriented insurance company? Will Obama force in-n-out to put suras on their wrappers as well?

    1. Let me be perfectly clear on this point: Shut the fuck up.

      1. Let me be perfectly clear on this point, there are those who say that this is a distinction without a difference. To, um, those people who would say that, I say “Umm, shut the fuck up.”

  3. Makes a lot of sense when you think about it that way! LOL

  4. Feminists: KEEP YOUR LAWS OFF OUR BODIES!

    But we’re forcing people to pay for contraception.

    Feminists: Make it rain!

  5. Church-affiliated universities, hospitals and charities would not have to provide or pay for such coverage.

    As far as I know, that’s just flat-out wrong for self-insured organizations, which would include an awful lot of hospitals and universities. They are their own insurance company, so how is that they are not required to pay, directly, for contraception?

    1. Good question. Every company I’ve worked for since college has been self-insured. How does this not force them into paying for contraception?

    2. What’s the difference between telling one lie and telling another?

      1. How many suckers you can get to believe you?

        1. It’s not a lie if you believe it!!

    3. Currently, 33 states require that health plans cover contraception. Some plans in states where it is not mandated do not cover contraception, generic or not. My husband’s did not, when I took the pill for a short time after baby #1. Mirena is not covered. Curiously, sterilization is.

      1. States cannot regulate self-insured plans. Those mandates don’t apply to self-insured Catholic organizations.

        In fact, the adoption of those mandates is one reason so many Catholic organizations are self-insured.

        1. Thank you for clarifying that. This federal insurance issue is so complicated. And irritating. I’m glad I do not work in healthcare admin; the PD hours required to keep up with the regs must be like getting another college degree on top of your job.

      2. BC pills are pretty fallible (mainly because their effectiveness is dependent on the ability of the patient to follow directions), but sterilization is damn near 100% effective.

        BC pills also have side effects that could cause

        Insurers don’t want to pay both for BC pills AND pregnancies and/or complications. If they pay for sterilization, there’s little or no chance for recurring charges.

        1. I never thought of it from the fallibility angle. Thanks for pointing it out.

          I suppose it could also have something to do with being a one-off, one-payment operation rather than a long term coverage need.

      3. Mirena is not covered. Curiously, sterilization is.

        I don’t see a problem with that. If you can’t afford birth control, you shouldn’t be shitting out any more rugrats.

      4. It’s not financially rational to use insurance to pay for you contraception. Everything your plan covers costs you money, and slightly more than it would cost out of pocket. Otherwise insurance companies could not turn a profit. Paying for concraception via insurance is just throwing money away.

        A high deductible insurance plan plus out-of-pocket payment for most routing expenses is in fact cheaper than comprehensive insurance coverage.

        The only reason this isn’t the standard is because of the perverse effects of the tax deductions for employer-based insurance.

  6. It’s a presidential election year. Surely you don’t expect the New York Times to put the truth above political expediency now, when they don’t like to do that in non-election years?

    1. They usually print the truth for about five days following the election of a Democratic President. After a Democrat has been safely put in office, they come up from the tank for air for a few days. During this they admit that well, maybe the evil Republicans had a few good points after all. And that maybe the problems the new Jesus in the White House promised he would solved are going to be really hard to solve. So everyone needs to tone down their expectations. After five days of explaining this, they go back to their usual lying.

      See the NYT day after the 2008 election front page article admitting that well, perhaps Guantanamo Bay wasn’t Auschwitz and that maybe some of the people detained there were problematic for an example of this.

  7. obama? disingenuous? what?? i’m confused.

    soon we will learn that the presidential pet is both a cat and a dog. Or neither, if you’re allergic. It depends. If something bad happened, rich people did it.

    1. Let’s just say they have a pet. And they keep this pet in a box where nobody can see it. Is it a cat or a dog?

      1. Didn’t Schodinger say it could be either?

        1. I never got that whole concept; I mean, if it is killed, then surely it will yelp or something, telling you that it was, indeed, alive while in the box.

          1. No one has ever actually done it. I am not sure you could. The point was to show the unreal nature of quantum mechanics.

            1. Working strictly from memory here, but I don’t believe quantum uncertainty does map up to the macroworld in that manner, so it’s an analogy only. At least from the scientific perspective.

              I seem to recall that Schr?dinger came up with the concept to demonstrate flaws with “quantum weirdness”, but I could be mistaken.

              1. I don’t think you are mistaken Pro. The point of the thought experiment was to show the flaws of the quantum world applied to ours.

              2. It was a thought experiment to point out the flaws in the strict Copenhagen interpretation of superposition.

            2. So, what you’re saying is that we need to put Obama in a box with a radioactive element, a Geiger counter and a bottle of poisonous gas?

          2. It’s poison gas. I don’t think there would be any kind of death rattle.

          3. They use physics shorthand in describing the box. The box must not pass any information about what is going on inside for it to work. An important thing to note about all things quantum is that it doesn’t make sense to anyone. But it does seem to be how the world works.

    2. Let me clear, there are those who say we own pets. We do not own any pets.

      Those pets in our house are actually owned by a pet service company. We gave them a one time payment for permanent and exclusive possession and control of the animals, and we are responsible for all animal related expenses.

      There are those who would claim that there is no difference between our arrangement and, uh, I would ummm, say that those persons are wrong.

  8. Oh no not contraception.

    The world is ending. Oh no.

  9. Yes, no bias there….

  10. It’s amazing how grey Barry has gotten over the last three years.

    We can only hope he keeps puffing those cigarettes and succumbs to a coronary like many black men do.

    Note that death is not necessary, just enough disability to require him to step down.

    1. You know that by Federal Law, I now must quote Animal Mother from “Full Metal Jacket”:

      “Thank God for the sickle cell….”

    2. >Implying Obama is actually Black.

    3. kinnath|2.29.12 @ 12:57PM|#

      It’s amazing how grey Barry has gotten over the last three years

      Dude, that shit has been staged for at least everybody since reagan.

      1. It’s amazing how grey Barry has gotten over the last three years

        Who knew that playing golf could be so stressful?

    4. Did you ever stop to think maybe he colored his hair 3 years ago and doesn’t do it much anymore?

      1. Not just the hair. The presidents age rapidly in office. Very noticable with Slick Willy, W, and Barry.

      2. That was my first thought.

  11. I personally think Obama (as well as the current GOP candidates) totally manufacture these ‘controversies’ around meaningless red-herring issues which its totally convenient to hem and haw about, but ultimately do nothing substansive about at all… I know some people will huff and puff and tell me contraception is a major issue and any threat to a woman/couple’s right to birth control blah blah blah blah…but I’m just not buying it. It aint 1950 anymore, and this is not a big fucking deal, and any attempt to pretend it is makes me want to start tapping people on the forehead and go, “15 TRILLION DOLLARS…15 TRILLION DOLLARS…15 TRILLION DOLLARS…15 TRILLION DOLLARS…15 TRILLION DOLLARS…” until they can’t take it anymore.

    Election years always remind me precisely how stupid the political class thinks we are.

    1. No it is not a big deal. But the principle that the government can force people to pay for things that are against their religion is.

      1. The principle that government can force people to pay for things that go against their better judgment is. The government has no more business overruling Blue Cross management’s economic judgment on contraceptive coverage than it does overuling Sisters of Mercy Hospital’s moral judgement on such matters.

    2. I think you’re right, but they can’t do it without the help of useful idiots. To the Catholics, this is a very big deal, much more so than the national debt. If America imploded into Mad Max times tomorrow, that would still be less important than making sure somebody, somewhere, wasn’t using a condom (to the church hierarchy, not to the average member).

      1. Yes, it is a very big deal to them. And who are we to say it shouldn’t be? First them and then us.

        1. Well sure it’s their right to the opinion, but I also have a right to be frustrated that they choose to hammer on that, instead of more pressing (IMO) economic issues. The Catholics are downright socialist in their economics most of the time.

          1. Sure. But being wrong about some things doesn’t make them any less right about others.

            1. They’re right for the wrong reasons. The Church is whining because it doesn’t have its special exemption anymore. And it should be railing against the mandates in the first place.

        2. Sign in front of the local Catholic parish reads: “Never give up your rights of religion or free speech for Lent, or ever.”

          This isn’t over.

          1. I considered eating a hamburger on Friday a form of free speech I wouldn’t give up for Lent.

          2. What is the Catholic church’s position on campaign finance laws, I wonder?

            1. They don’t have one. There are a few fundamental issues that the Church take very hard line stances on, such as abortion and same sex marriage. Pretty much everything else, the attitude seems to be “reasonable opinions may differ”.

        3. I’m going to say it shouldn’t be. And they shouldn’t be forced to pay for it. No one should. If it violates religious freedom, then it violates everyone’s religious freedom and the whole law needs to go. No special exceptions.

          1. Would you say that about taxes? Child welfare laws? Enforcede childhood medical treatment? All of these violate someone’s religious laws.

            1. You forgot blood transfusions and human sacrifices.

      2. The problem is the way the healthcare bill works.

        It mandates that everyone pay for insurance – whatever it costs. And then it imposes mandates as to what the insurance must cover. And guess who gets to decide what’s in those mandates?

        So basically the executive branch, through it’s regulatory agencies, can decide which health care services shall be socialized. The price of insurance reflects the cost of these services. Everyone is forced to pay for the insurance. It’s an automatic cost-adjusting entitlement system. The president just decides that birth control must be covered with zero co-pays and deductivbles, and BOOM, instantly free birth control is a right that all of society must pay for.

    3. Election years always remind me precisely how stupid the political class thinks we are.

      It’s working so far. All the conservatives are swallowing the shiny, shiny lure. Obama couldn’t have really found a better non-issue to drive so-cons awau from the relative electability of Romney and in to the waiting arms of the disastrous Santorum.

      One of the exit polls for Arizona and Michigan I saw said that only 30% said electability was their main voting criteria. Really? 70% of the Republican voting base thinks that some factor other than the ability to beat Obama in the general is their main voting criteria? WTF is wrong with these people?

      1. http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2…..women.html

        Santorum is actually doing better among women after this. Not every women is a Jezebell harpy. And there are a lot of Catholics.

        I look at this as a dead loser. The type of top shelf liberal women who get angry about this shit, generally vote on abortion and nothing else and will thus vote Dem no matter what. Meanwhile, there are a lot of independent Catholics who are otherwise pretty liberal and inclined to vote for Obama who now might not.

        1. That’s my point. Santorum is doing better. Which Obama wants. Because he can easily beat him in the general compared to Romney.

          1. I don’t think he can beat either. And I think he has done long term damage to his brand with independents with this.

            1. Really?

          2. We just need internet users to make a heretical definition of “Obama” the top google-search result.

            Something about a frothy mix of Arianism and Donastism…

          3. “Because he can easily beat him in the general compared to Romney.”

            Is that actually true?

            It seems to me that an apathetic base is more of a liability than a perceived ability to attract moderate voters is a benefit (not that I find Santorum especially inspiring to the GOP base). I do not see how the consensus among he punditry that Romney is a great general election candidate is justified by anything we have seen from him.

      2. One of the exit polls for Arizona and Michigan I saw said that only 30% said electability was their main voting criteria. Really? 70% of the Republican voting base thinks that some factor other than the ability to beat Obama in the general is their main voting criteria? WTF is wrong with these people?

        You say that like you have never read anything on this site. Libertarians never consider “electability” as a criteria. They also do not favor a “lesser of two evils” when one is impure. Shit, doesn’t this very site claim that there is no difference between R’s and D’s? If so, why not vote for the guy you like best, instead of the “electable” one? You talk as if there is a real difference.

        1. I’m looking at it from a GOP POV. They can all burn for my money, but you would think the GOP would have more than a 30% interest in beating Obama.

          Besides, if voting for Santorum is their idea of a principles candidate, then I guess they deserve four more years of Obama, good and hard.

      3. “Electability” has become a bit of a nasty word to many conservative leaning republicans, simply because they were told the same thing about Dole & McCain. Most of these people see in Mittens the same brand of Democrat-lite, and they see the so-called “establishment” as defining the “electable candidate” as the one who is the least conservative. It isn’t that they don’t want to beat Obama, its that they believe that conservatism doesn’t need to be moderated to be a viable choice to the American public. There is a general state of mind that they’d rather lose than see somebody like Dole, McCain, or Mittens define yet another distorted concept of conservatism to a generation.

    4. Election years always remind me precisely how stupid the political class thinks we are.

      They keep getting elected over and over, so clearly they’re not underestimating that.

  12. Church-affiliated universities, hospitals and charities would not have to provide or pay for such coverage. Instead, the White House says, coverage for birth control could be offered to women directly by their employers’ insurance companies, “with no role for religious employers who oppose contraception.”

    The fascinating thing is that the above statement is absurd by itself. It’s like saying that my father will not have to pay for my college tuition because the college plan he set up with his money is going to pay for my college tuition.

    It’s one thing to hide the truth, quite another to come up with illogical statements aimed at pleasing the gullible but ending up insulting the intelligence of every NYT reader – well, those with sufficient intelligence to be insulted.

  13. Marcus then echoes the administration’s argument that the contraceptive mandate may not result in higher premiums because it will save insurers money on pregnancy-related health care.

    Pregnancy = Expensive

    Birth control = less expensive

    Not fucking = FREE

    1. Yep. You know the old justification for every nanny state intervention in personal lifestyle choices, whether it’s smoking, eating salt or transfats, not exercising enough, whatever: if we’re paying for your healthcare, we deserve a say in your lifestyle.

      Prepare for the anti-sex right to shove that logic right up your greedy shortsighted fuckholes, femtards. Sorry, but that rule seems to override “my body, my choice”.

      1. Yup. If President Obama can force the Catholic Church to do this, what sorts of fun things could a President Santorum force colleges and universities and employers to do? Short sighted morons.

      2. As always, let the Iron Laws be your guide:

        Me today, you tomorrow.

        1. You’re like a dour Jiminy Cricket.

          1. Jiminy Cricket combined with the Gods of the Copybook Headings

    2. Those stupid businesses don’t know how to turn a profit. We’ll figure it out for them.

  14. The whole thing leaves me scratching my head.

    If ObamaCare mandates covering birth control, surely it will cover your ailment as well.

  15. Marcus then echoes the administration’s argument that the contraceptive mandate may not result in higher premiums because it will save insurers money on pregnancy-related health care.

    If this was actually true, every insurance provider would already cover these services, without a government mandate.

  16. This is pretty much what was done with the torture issue.

    Assume for arguments sake that their assertion that the US doesn’t torture anymore is accurate.

    US government agents don’t torture, but they will arrange for a person to be ‘arrested’ (read:kidnapped), not charged, and delivered to someone who will torture them. The non-torturing government agent will be present or, at a minimum, be given any intelligence gleaned from that torture session.

    End result is virtually identical.

    Anyone who believes there’s a difference should also believe that an organized crime figure who has a person ‘detained’ and brought to a third party who then kills that person is not in fact guilty of murder and can say with complete honesty, “I don’t murder people”.

  17. Sounds to me like that dude is just totally rocking it man.

    http://www.Gone-Anon.tk

  18. Gives you an idea of how completely fucked up the welfare state is. The society is completely dependent on having a minimum fertility rate – not only are we short of it but the government is actively paying people to ensure we get even farther from it.

    1. Something something sows the seeds of its own something or other.

  19. The best part is where they claim that women won’t be able to get birth control unless it is covered by insurance.

    Because nobody in the universe ever got a prescription and then walked into a pharmacy and paid for it out of pocket.

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