That’s a “Compromise”? Seriously?

So now the Administration has offered what they call a “compromise” on the HHS contraception and abortion mandate.

In their initial comment, the Bishops have said that they need to study the proposal, and are hoping that it is a first step towards a genuine resolution of this problem.

Of course, as I’ve noted before, the whole notion of “compromise” means that you actually consult with others and come to a mutually agreed-upon settlement.  But the President apparently thinks that “spending months hammering out a solution was not going to be an option”.  So, instead, we have yet another ukase from our rulers, dressed up in the guise of a “reasonable accommodation”.

But it is nothing of the kind.

There are no details available that would allow us to evaluate the actual content of the proposal.  The Administration says that it will publish rules later today, and will defer some decisions until some time in the future.  Instead, we have a press release plus lots of political spin, where all the usual suspects are trotted out to try to put out the political fires that the Administration has brought upon itself.

Given the lack of details, we can’t tell if the key questions have been addressed:

  • How will they define a “religious employer”?  If there are any conditions on what kind of organizations will qualify as “religious”, based on the purpose of the organization is or the religious beliefs of the employees or clients, then it is still clearly unacceptable.
  • What kind of information will have to be provided to the employees? Will the employer be forced to refer people directly to contraception providers?  Will they be required to inform employees about what kind of contraceptive services are available from the insurance company?  Either way, it would force religious organizations to say things that are contrary to their beliefs.
  • Is there any provision for non-religious employers or individuals who do not want to subsidize abortion, sterilization or contraception?  Individuals have rights under the First Amendment and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act — will they be ignored?
  • Given the Administration’s track record in this area, I personally expect that none of these questions will be answered in a way that is favorable to respect for human life and religious liberty.

    Perhaps the most cynical part of the proposal is the economics.  I cannot believe that anyone in the Administration is so naive about fundamental principles of economics that they think there is any such thing as a free lunch.  And yet, they claim that individuals will be able to obtain services free of charge, without the religious employer paying for them, because the insurance company will have to foot the entire bill.

    What, can insurance companies print money now, just as the government does, to cover deficits?

    Don’t they understand that the insurance companies will just pass the costs of these “free” services on to the employers, other employees, doctors, and ultimately taxpayers?  This is not that hard a concept.  In the real world, religious employers and individuals will still be compelled to pay for offensive services like sterilizations and early abortions — but the Administration is asking us to look the other way and pretend that it’s not happening.

    Since the Administration has shown no real interest in “compromise” in any meaningful sense, we may have reached a point where there is really no alternative.  All people who care about religious freedom and the defense of human life should unite in pressing Congress to pass an authentic conscience protection bill (like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012). And we need to support either repeal or fundamental changes to the tainted tree that has borne this ugly fruit — the health care law as a whole.

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    9 Responses to “That’s a “Compromise”? Seriously?”

    1. Doug Indeap says:

      The point of an exemption is simply to enable an employer to avoid acting contrary to his or her religious beliefs, not to retain control of employees’ health plans, limit employees’ choices to those religiously approved by the employer, and avoid paying any money to anybody that might someday be used by somebody to provide services to employees not to the employers’ liking.

    2. Ed Mechmann says:

      As an employee, I have never had any control over my health insurance plan. My employer has always negotiated the terms of the plan, my costs, etc., and has presented it to us once it was acceptable to them (presumably for economic reasons). That’s the way the real world works. I wish it were otherwise, and that my health insurance wasn’t tied to my employment. But that will continue to be the case with the health reform law.

      Maybe the question should be turned around. Since my employer cannot force me to act against my conscience or religious beliefs, what gives me the right to force my employer to do something against their conscience?

    3. Doug Indeap says:

      Ed,

      Your employer is compensating you for your services by providing you a package that includes wages and benefits. Your employer could avoid this fake moral quandary simply by dropping health plans altogether and saving that expense, paying you more in wages so you can afford to buy your own, and leaving you to make your own choices.

    4. Ed Mechmann says:

      I really get the point that you do not share or respect our religious beliefs. But how about accepting the fact that the Catholic and Orthodox Bishops of the United States, along with religious leaders of a variety of Christian and Jewish communities, along with secular legal and political scholars, all have a sincerely-held belief that this mandate is offensive? Would you be so dismissive of an atheist who objected to a prayer in a public school? Would you consider that to be a “fake moral quandary”, or a real problem?

    5. Doug Indeap says:

      I’m not sure what you mean by “this mandate.” I speak of the law’s provisions regarding employers and noted the fake moral quandary because, notwithstanding cries to the contrary, the law did not force any employers to act contrary to their beliefs. Employers had the option of not providing health plans (with the provisions they deemed immoral) and instead paying assessments to the government. I understand that some nevertheless complained that that would be like paying for the services they found objectionable. That, to my thinking, is a real stretch, akin to a taxpayer who objects to a war wanting an exemption from taxes so he isn’t paying for it. In any event, the compromise relieves employers of even that obligation; they now can provide plans to their liking without paying assessments. So (apart from just not liking the law as a whole) what’s the beef now? Apparently some are saying they don’t want to pay any money to anyone that might someday be used by somebody to buy something they don’t like. I’m sorry, but they’ll just have to buck up and accept that “their” money is not forever theirs and they cannot forever control it as it moves through the economy. At some point (like the minute it leaves the employer’s hand), others start to regard it as “theirs” to do with as they will.

    6. Ed Mechmann says:

      If you don’t understand what we’re objecting to or why, I have obviously done a poor job of explaining it on this blog. I would suggest that you check out the US Bishops Conference extensive webpage that explains it all.

    7. Doug Indeap says:

      Ed,

      I’m quite familiar with the law and objections to it. The focus of your post and my comments are the obligations of employers. As the law, in my opinion, never mandated that employers act contrary to their beliefs, and the compromise further removes any prospect of that, what you meant by “this mandate” in your last comment was not apparent and seemed perhaps to refer to the so-called individual mandate, another topic.

    8. Ed Mechmann says:

      Even after this “compromise” (the details of which are still not known), the mandate remains — employers must either (a) provide morally unacceptable health plans, or (b) pay for them indirectly and pay a fine to the government. In other words, the mandate eliminates the freedom of a religious employer to offer health insurance that is morally acceptable to them. It also eliminates the freedom of religious employees, who would like to have such a plan because it preserves their own moral integrity.

      If you don’t see that as a net loss of individual and institutional religious freedom, then I don’t know what else to say.

    9. Doug Indeap says:

      Arguments for a “religious employer” exemption have gone from wrong to ridiculous.

      Those demanding such an exemption initially worked themselves into a lather with the false claim that the law forced employers to provide their employees with health care plans offering services the employers considered immoral. The fact is that employers have the option of not providing any such plans and instead simply paying assessments to the government. Unless one supposes that the employers’ religion forbids payments of money to the government (all of us should enjoy such a religion), then the law’s requirement to pay assessments does not compel those employers to act contrary to their beliefs. Problem solved–except perhaps for an employer who really desires not just to avoid a moral bind, but rather wants to retain control of his employees’ health plans, limit their choices to conform to the employer’s religious beliefs, and avoid paying the assessments that otherwise would be owed. For that, an employer would need an exemption from the law.

      Indeed, some continued clamoring for just such an exemption, complaining that by paying assessments they would be paying for the very things they opposed. They seemingly missed that that is not a moral dilemma justifying an exemption to avoid being forced to act contrary to one’s beliefs, but rather is a gripe common to most taxpayers–who don’t much like paying taxes and who object to this or that action the government may take with the benefit of their tax dollars. Should each of us be exempted from paying our taxes so we aren’t thereby “forced” to pay for a war, health care, or whatever else the government does that each of us may consider wrong or even immoral?

      In any event, they put up enough of a stink that the government relented and announced that religious employers would be free to provide health plans with provisions to their liking and not be required to pay the assessments otherwise required. Problem solved–again, even more.

      Nonetheless, some continue to complain. They fret that somehow religious employers ultimately will pay for the services they oppose. They argue that if insurers (or, by the same logic, anyone, e.g., employees) pay for such services, those costs will somehow, someday be passed on to the employers in the form of demands for higher insurance premiums or higher wages. They counter what they call the government’s “accounting gimmick” with one of their own: the “Catholic dollar.” These dollars, once paid by a religious employer to others, e.g., insurers or employees, should be used only for things the religious employer would approve. The religious employers’ aim, we are assured, is not to control the actions of others, oh no, but rather is merely to assure that the employers themselves have not somehow acted contrary to their own beliefs by loosing “their” dollars into hands that would use them for things no self-respecting religious employer would himself buy. Their religious liberty, they say, requires not only that they be exempted from the law, but further that anyone to whom they pay money also be exempted and thus “free” to act according to their desires.

      I wonder what they would say if they knew they had some of my “atheist dollars” in their wallets that can be used only for ungodly purposes, lest I suffer the indignity of paying for things I disbelieve.