Monday, March 26, 2012

More Adjustments to Contraception Mandate

More adjustments have been made to President Obama’s healthcare mandate which demands all contraception be offered free of charge to the individual. The mandate originally stated employers must provide insurance which offers contraception at no cost to the individual. Last month, the mandate was adjusted so that the fiscal responsibility lay on the insurer rather than the employer. A few weeks ago, the Obama administration moved the financial burden once more from the insurer to the administrator of insurance to ensure that religiously affiliated universities will not have to “pay, arrange, or refer” contraception for students. Also as outlined in recent statements regarding the mandate, the exemption which previously applied only to houses of worship has been expanded to include other “religiously affiliated groups”. The requirements of qualifying groups include that the purpose of the group must be motivated by religious values, the group must primarily employ people who share in those beliefs, and the group must have a nonprofit tax exemption status. The most recent statements about the mandate also state that all students at religiously affiliated universities may still receive contraception at no cost through insurance companies, despite the moral objections of the universities.

Responses to these adjustments have come from bishops, the Department of Health and Human Services, and religious universities. Mary Ann Walsh, a spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops noted the administration’s disregard for their religious traditions by mentioning, “I’m surprised such important information would be announced late Friday on St. Patrick’s Day weekend as we prepare for the fourth Sunday of Lent”. Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, argues the adjustments to the mandate both respects the religious freedoms of the church and effectively provides women with affordable healthcare coverage. Steve Schneck, of the Catholic University of America seemed more appreciative of the Obama administration’s diligence in appeasing the Bishops, and suggests the Bishops should be happy about these changes. The final response from the US Conference of Bishops reiterated the religious liberties at stake, as well as the administration’s failure to include other religious entities in the exemption. The demand for all private health care insurers to provide contraception is still unreasonable and the exemption is still too narrow.

The Obama Administration’s decision to transfer the fiscal responsibility from the insurer to the administrator failed to appease the bishops in that the revision failed to include all religious entities, and therefore failed to address the concern of religious freedom of the church. The Department of Health and Human Services is looking to alleviate the financial concerns associated with the mandate and ensure that nonprofit religious groups are not held responsible in financially supporting the mandate. The U.S. Conference of Bishops is more concerned with what the mandate says and who it applies to, regardless of where the financial responsibility lays. For any progress to be made in appeasing religious groups, the Department of Health and Human Services will need to pay close attention to the grievances of the groups in opposition to the mandate rather than constructing compromises on fiscal foundations.



Olivea M said...

I am not sure if the Obama Administration could do anything more to appease the churches who did not want to provide contraceptives to their employees. Although I do not think that initial mandate that the Obama Administration proposed should have received so much backlash from the churches within America, I think that these changes are more than fair. As I have stated before, I think that by the churches not providing their employees with the opportunity to receive contraception through their employment benefits could be seen as a violation of the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection clause. I think President Obama's initial proposal was fair, and this compromise shows that his intent is to make sure that those who want contraceptives can acquire them. It is evident by the amount of revisions the Obama Administration has applied to this mandate, that their desire was not to offend anyone.

jacobr said...

I agreed with the blogger, the focus should not be solely on the financial aspect of the controversial bill but on the moral and ethical issues that it poses. While I agreed with a woman’s right to control her health issues, contraception is an issue that goes beyond just health and welfare. Birth-control has fundamentally changed the social fabric of the American main stream. Previously well established norms are relics of the past. Two parent households are becoming more and rarer. Increased transmission of previously controlled sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis is re-emerging, all as an indirect consequence of birth control. Policy makers should not only consider the immediate and foreseeable consequences of legislation but it must also observe the negative consequence of well meaning actions such as catastrophic social decay.