Obama Administration

About That Obama Administration Contraception Mandate Compromise


Pills are never "free"

Last week, the Obama administration announced that it had compromised on the ObamaCare requirement that religiously affiliated institutions would have to pay for health insurance that covers reproductive services. The Washington Post explained:

Under this proposal, objecting nonprofits will be allowed to offer employees a plan that does not cover contraceptives. Their health insurer will then automatically enroll employees in a separate individual policy, which only covers contraceptives, at no cost. This policy would stand apart from the employer's larger benefit package.

The faith-based employer would not "have to contract, arrange, pay or refer for any contraceptive coverage to which they object on religious grounds."

In earlier my blogpost about this "compromise" I asked:

Is it really credible that health insurers won't simply boost the prices of their non-contraceptive policies to cover the "no-cost" contraception coverage? Does the Obama administration really think that believers can be that easily duped?

Post columnist Michael Gerson suggests today that the answer is no. He cites a succinct analysis from the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center's Yuval Levin:

"The religious institutions are required by the government to give their workers an insurer, and that insurer is required by the government to give those workers abortive and contraceptive coverage, but somehow these religious employers are supposed to imagine that they're not giving their workers access to abortive and contraceptive coverage."

Yep. That's exactly what the Obama administration is offering. Gerson points to further limitations on even this alleged compromise:

The administration has still made no attempt to deal with the hard cases. Is it right to impose the mandate on a for-profit religious publisher? On a non-religious pro-life organization or a Catholic television station? On a family-owned business with a highly religious owner?

Good questions. As I pointed out in my May 2012 column, "Separating Church and State Money," a real compromise would be to change the tax code so that employers could hand over the money they spend on buying mandated one-size-fits all health insurance policies to each employee. Then individual employees would be able purchase whatever health insurance they think fits their needs, including policies that pay for whatever reproductive services they want.

Disclosure: I am for allowing people to make all sorts of reproductive choices including aborting or not aborting, using or not using contraceptives, takng advantage of in vitro fertlization techniques or not, contracting with surrogates or not, and when the time comes, availing themselves of safe technologies to genetically enhance their children or not. Of course, they should pay for such choices themselves.