Last night [October 11] the following statement was made during the Vice Presidential debate regarding the decision of the U.s. Department of Health and Human Services to force virtually all employers to include sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion, in the health insurance coverage they provided their employees.
“With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution – Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital – none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact.”
This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain “religious employers. That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to Catholic social services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital, or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.
HHS has proposed an additional accommodation for religious organizations like these, which HHS itself describes as ‘non-exempt’. That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation to pay for contraception and to be a vehicle to get contraception. They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, an that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.
Actually, the bishops have it wrong. Their claims that the health law violates religious liberty are based on a “big lie”–a gross falsification constantly repeated and embellished to lend credibility. Notwithstanding claims to the contrary, the health care law does not force employers to act contrary to their consciences.
Employers may comply with the law by choosing either of two options: (1) provide qualifying health insurance plans or (2) do not provide such plans and instead pay assessments to the government. Unless one supposes that the employers’ religions forbid payments of money to the government, the law does not compel them to act contrary to their beliefs.
The second choice does not amount to “violating” the law and paying a “fine,” as some suppose. As the law “does not explicitly mandate an employer to offer employees acceptable health insurance” (http://www.ncsl.org/documents/health/EmployerPenalties.pdf), there is no such “mandate” to “violate.” Rather, the law affords employers two options, either of which is as lawful as the other.
Nor are the assessments set so high that paying them would drive employers out of business, as some speculate. The law provides that if a “large employer” (i.e., one with at least 50 employees) chooses not to provide health insurance, it must pay assessments of $2,000 per year per employee after the first 30 employees. That is much less than an employer typically would pay for health insurance. Small employers would pay no assessments at all. Because of this potential saving and because the law affords individuals realistic opportunities to obtain insurance on their own, many employers are considering this option–for reasons entirely unrelated to religion. (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443437504577545770682810842.html)
In recently issued commentary on the various options of employers, the National Catholic Bioethics Center acknowledges, albeit grudgingly, that the option of not providing health insurance and instead paying assessments is “morally sound.” While also considering this option “unfortunate” in that the insurance employees would find on their own would include coverage the Center deems objectionable, the Center concludes that the employers’ “moral connection” to that coverage would be “remote.” https://ncbcenter.org/document.doc?id=450&erid=194821
Bottom line: Employers are not forced by the law to act contrary to their consciences. Rather, as recognized by even those who object to some aspects of the insurance the law makes available, the law affords employers with similar objections the morally sound option of not providing such insurance and paying assessments instead.
By forcing Christian organizations to either pay for abortions and sterilizations in order to provide health insurance coverage for their employees or not carry insurance is discriminatory. Suppose they told you that the only way you could provide health insurance for your familiy is if you gave up all but one of your children for adoption. Would that be discriminatory? After all, you’d have the same options as Christian organizations – keep your family intact without insurance or give up all but one of your kids to take care of the rest. When government can force anyone to buy insurance and force religious organizations to cover murder in order to provide insurance, they can force the rest of us to do their bidding as well.
Discriminatory? “Christian organizations” have the same choices as all employers. The question is not whether the law discriminates between them and others, but rather whether the law forces them to act contrary to their consciences. Since the law does not force employers to use contraception, provide contraception to others, or even provide insurance that includes contraception coverage for others, it plainly does not force anyone to act contrary to religious beliefs in those ways. In the end, the law requires (large) employers who do not provide their employees with health insurance merely to pay assessments to the government in amounts that are far less than what the employers would have paid for health insurance.
Surely, you see a difference between a law that requires one to pay money to the government and a law that requires one to give up one’s children for adoption. Unless it is supposed that an employer’s religion forbids payments to the government (all of us should enjoy such a religion), it cannot be argued that a law requiring such payments forces an employer to violate his or her religious beliefs.
Again, you miss the whole point. The government is forcing religious organizations to choose between their beliefs and the welfare of their employees. When a government gets so powerful that they can put this type of burden on any one segment of the population there is nothing to stop them from forcing any mandate they can dream up on another segment of the population, up to and including how many children you can cover under a family policy.
The HHS mandate is a clear violation of the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. It is not a rule of general applicability because it creates multiple exceptions – narrow religious exceptions that favors the religious freedom of some and selectively burdens the religous freedom of others. That is discrimination.
You might want to rethink who is missing the point. My point was and is that, contrary to the bishops unfounded assertions, the law does not force employers to act contrary to their consciences. That they presume to “fact check” someone saying otherwise is the height of irony.
Nothing you have said even addresses the fact that the law affords every employer the option to not provide insurance and simply pay an assessment instead. (Rather than discuss that, you now argue the ACA is not a law of general applicability because it provides exemptions, apparently to avoid the effect of the Supreme Court’s Smith decision. While that argument does not hold water, I’ll not get into that since it’s a whole different discussion.) Employers may not like paying money to the government and they may not like what the government does with the money, but those are garden variety gripes common to most taxpayers. Such gripes hardly amount to being forced to act contrary to one’s conscience. Should each of us be exempted from paying some portion(s) of our taxes so we aren’t thereby “forced” to pay for making war, providing health care, teaching evolution, or whatever else each of us may consider wrong or even immoral? If each of us could opt out of this or that law or tax with the excuse that our religion requires or allows it, the government and the rule of law could hardly operate.
We’ll just have to agree to disagree.
The ACA “forces” everyone to pay. whether it be in the form of a penalty or provide a health care policy (again forced on the individual). Except for the waivers that the current administration has issued, now topping 2,000, exempting multiple millions which flys in the face of the arguement that “forcing everyone to pay (their words) makes it cheaper for everyone. Either choice “mandates” that you must pay. An individual no longer has the choice to have covergae. The agruement is about personal liberty to choose for one’s self.