The commotion surrounding President Obama’s press conference Friday on the latest Obamacare mandate caused plenty of confusion over the weekend.
But let there be no doubt: Obamacare’s anti-conscience mandate did not change.
While everyone was busy trying to figure out what the convoluted midday proposal actually meant, the Obama Administration went ahead and posted the actual final rule late Friday. It is exactly the same as the August 3 version that created the controversy in the first place.
It states that all insurance plans must cover, at no charge, contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization. Religious employers like Catholic hospitals, Christian schools, and faith-based pregnancy care centers will still have to provide such coverage regardless of their beliefs. In what some have called the narrowest religious exemption in federal law to date, only churches are exempted.
Furthermore, any employer with objections to the mandate has no recourse. Nor, for that matter, will individuals with objections to this mandate be able to purchase insurance that matches their convictions.
This is only the beginning of the problems Americans will continue to see as the Obamacare “essential benefits” package takes shape. The anti-conscience mandate is a warning sign for us all of how one-size-fits-all health care requirements will trample religious liberty as well as individual liberty.
The moral compass for some of our most intimate life decisions is now in the hands of bureaucrats.
Our three take-aways from Friday’s announcement are very simple:
1) The President described a hypothetical, future policy change, which had the effect of detracting from the final rule actually posted at the end of the day.
That said, even if the Administration were to move forward in the future with new rule-making to accomplish what the President outlined Friday—instructing insurance companies rather than religious employers to provide “free” coverage for contraception, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization—problems would remain, as outlined in 2 and 3 below.
2) The hypothetical, future policy change does not solve the religious liberty problem. It does not disentangle religious employers, since insurers will shift the burden back to religious groups through higher premiums in one form or another. Nor does it address the potential religious liberty concerns of other employers or individuals.
3) The hypothetical, future policy change is unworkable as a practical matter, as Heritage scholar Ed Haislmaier pointed out in a post Friday afternoon raising questions about how it would apply, for example, to the many groups that self-insure.
The President’s outline of such possible future changes was roundly criticized on Friday and over the weekend. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops offered a very strong statement Friday evening.
As Carrie Lukas of the Independent Women’s Forum has written, “We all deserve the freedom to exercise our consciences”:
The Obama Administration has awakened Americans to the clear costs, and inherent loss of liberty, involved in government’s take-over of medicine….
This is an outrage.
It isn’t just Catholic institutions or other religious groups, but all Americans who are being stripped of choice by our increasingly arrogant federal government which thinks it knows better than the rest of it. We shouldn’t stand for it. Americans should be clamoring not just for a more generous exemption from HHS’s rules, but a repeal of these fundamentally inappropriate government mandates and a return of power and control to the people.
Obamacare’s anti-conscience mandate is a matter of concern for institutions and individuals, for religious liberty specifically and liberty generally. It’s one more reminder—with many more in its wake—of why Obamacare must be repealed.