As the Supreme Court takes up the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act this week, I want to talk a bit about a small aspect of that Act that’s also been in the news lately—the mandate to provide free birth control and pregnancy “correction” services. I’ll have some ramblings on the PPACA itself in a nearby post.
The original Health and Human Services mandate was that employers would be required to provide contraception and abortion health insurance coverage at no additional cost to their employees. After the hue and cry over this assault on religious freedom—too many faith-based employers exist—President Obama “compromised” by putting the mandate off onto these employers’ insurance companies. Of course this ignores all those faith-based employers that self-insure, but enough is enough—the Progressives have accommodated, now it’s on the rest of us to compromise by sitting down and shutting up.
The Wall Street Journal, in a recent editorial, talked about the economic aspect of this adjusted mandate, focusing on the still free part of the services. The WSJ asked
Insurers are banned from charging higher premiums for extra benefits, so out of what mists will the necessary dollars materialize?
Health and Human Services claims that
Actuaries and experts have found that coverage of contraceptives is at least cost neutral, and may save money, when taking into account all costs and benefits for the issuer.
These must be the same actuaries and experts that assured Congressman Henry Waxman (D, CA) that PPACA itself wouldn’t be raising the cost of health insurance, so how dare AT&T, et al., announce just such cost increases in their SEC filings?
On the other hand, goes the argument, faith-based employers can simply hire insurers to run benefits and then directly pay their workers’ bills. In this way, religious organizations will pay for the contraception and abortion coverage with only a token middle man. But this is just a cynical sophistry. Whether paying directly or through a “token middle man,” these organizations are still being forced to pay for a violation of their teachings and their conscience.
And this brings me to a larger problem with this mandate, the reduction on individual freedom that it represents. Ann Patchett, in another op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, argues with a straight face that
If you are a Catholic, as I am, and birth control is covered in the insurance plan of the Catholic institution that employs you, you still don’t have to use it.
This is certainly true. But she ignores the critical aspect of this: “you,” woman or man, must still pay for it. Even though it violates your conscience, your religious teaching, to do so.
She goes on, with a justification all too common among Progressives:
If you are galled by the idea of paying for the birth control of people you do not know, people who might be using it to have wanton sex, stop and make a list of all the other troubling ways your tax dollars are spent. Contraception will probably not make the top 10.
Thus, because others have done wrong, or in this case because there are already a lot of misuses of our tax dollars, it’s OK to commit this wrong. There’s an interesting logic. Furthermore, this bit of argument carefully elides the loss of choice: no longer can a woman or a man choose to buy, or not to buy, contraception or abortion. Now we all must buy them.
Finally, the argument also carefully elides a larger loss of freedom: the freedom of religion and conscience. Now men and women of faith must violate their religious teachings, their conscience—not of their own free will (and the Progressives have made much of their non sequitor that vast hordes of Catholic women use contraception and even (gasp!) get abortions), but from government fiat. Government supplants conscience, Government supplants God.