Michael Tanner

Lost in the uproar over the Obama administration’s requirement that religiously affiliated organizations provide employees with insurance that covers contraceptives, including some abortifacients, is the fact that this rule is simply one more symptom of the fundamental problem with Obamacare. That problem is not papered over by the administration’s latest “compromise.”

First, let’s be clear: This issue never had anything whatsoever to do with women’s health. There is nothing that prevents any woman who wants contraceptives from purchasing them. No one is threatening to take that right away, and no one should.

The debate does not even have anything to do with whether or not women can get insurance that covers contraceptives. Most insurance plans already do so, and when they don’t, women can purchase a rider that provides the additional coverage.

What this debate was really about is who pays for that coverage. And as much as some would like to obscure it, there is a difference between having the freedom to buy something for yourself and forcing someone else to pay for it.

This issue never had anything whatsoever to do with women's health.

Obamacare creates this issue because it includes both an individual and employer mandate. The employer mandate requires all businesses with 50 or more employees to provide insurance to their workers starting in 2014. The individual mandate requires that anyone who doesn’t receive insurance through work (or through a government program like Medicare or Medicaid) purchase insurance for themselves. Individuals and businesses who fail to comply will be fined.

But these mandates do more than simply require that businesses and individuals purchase insurance. The insurance they buy must meet the government’s definition of acceptable insurance. Remember the President’s assurances that if you had insurance today and you like it, you could keep it? Not true.

Michael Tanner

Michael D. Tanner is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, heading research into a variety of domestic policies with particular emphasis on health care reform, welfare policy, and Social Security. His most recent white paper, "Bad Medicine: A Guide to the Real Costs and Consequences of the New Health Care Law," provides a detailed examination of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and what it means to taxpayers, workers, physicians, and patients.