You have to hand it to the Administration; their latest proposed “compromise” to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other religious pro-life ministries manages to insult both their intelligence and integrity. Hitting both targets takes some talent for ineptitude.
For those not following the story, recent rules from the administration implementing “Obamacare” mandate that all employers (except churches) provide health coverage that includes contraception as well as what are arguably abortifacients. In application, a group like Priests for Life (technically not a church under the narrow exemption) or a Catholic hospital would be required to fund these “services” for employees. Never mind that some religious organizations view these as morally abhorrent, or – dare we use the word these days? – sinful.
The outcry among Catholics (and others) was immediate and fierce. Politicians from both sides of the aisle quickly saw the totalitarian-style mandate for what it was - an order to sacrifice conscience to government dictates. Knowing the Catholic Church’s long history on these issues, even some identifying as “non-religious” were shocked by the callous and aggressive overreach of such tactics.
What the administration lacks in sensitivity, however, it makes up for in political survival skills. The back-peddling started quickly – and a “compromise” was hastily offered. (The compromise has not been formally added to the rules as of this writing.) What was the concession? Simple – the “services” would still be mandated, but religious objectors would not have to pay for them; instead, insurers (read here: big, greedy corporations) would have to provide the services free. Problem solved, right? Wrong.
Putting aside the reflexive “hit the corporations” odor to the compromise (a point for another day), the concession is meaningless. First, many religious non-profits are self-insured; these will directly pay the costs regardless of any compromise. Second, religious employers with insurance still subsidize the costs against their conscience. How does the administration think insurers calculate rates for next year’s premiums? There is no such thing as “free” coverage – and an insurer’s expenses form the basis for upcoming costs to consumers. The suggestion that affected organizations will not know the difference between direct and indirect costs is plainly insulting.