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Matt Vespa

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February 2, 2013 - 4:10 am

The HHS mandate has been altered to find middle ground between real America and Sandra Fluke land.  According to Sarah Kliff and Michelle Boorstein, the posted on Washington Post’s WonkBlog that:

under this proposal, objecting nonprofits will be allowed to offer employees a plan that does not cover contraceptives. Their health insurer will then automatically enroll employees in a separate individual policy, which only covers contraceptives, at no cost. This policy would stand apart from the employer’s larger benefit package.

The faith-based employer would not “have to contract, arrange, pay or refer for any contraceptive coverage to which they object on religious grounds.”

The Affordable Care Act initially required all employers to cover contraceptives as part of a larger package of preventive health benefits for women. Some religious groups opposed the requirement, which they argued would force them to go against their faith-based beliefs. Houses of worship would be exempt.

Last February, the Obama administration announced an accommodation to faith-based nonprofits: A third-party insurance company would cover the cost of contraceptive coverage.

Religious leaders derided the policy as an “accounting gimmick,” arguing that the premiums they pay to a health insurer could ultimately end up paying for the contraceptives they opposed.

[...]

Under the policy proposed Friday, self-insured plans opting out of contraceptive coverage would notify the company that administers their health benefits. That third-party administrator would then be responsible for arranging “separate individual health insurance policies for contraceptive coverage from an issuer providing such polices.”

This is the compromise, and conservatives aren’t happy.  As Yual Levin at National Review wrote today:

in today’s rule: “this proposal would not expand the universe of employer plans that would qualify for the exemption beyond that which was intended in the 2012 final rules.” It is still the case that essentially only houses of worship are exempted.

Private employers who have religious objections to the requirement are offered no relief, and religious employers that are not houses of worship, like Wheaton College or your local Catholic hospital, are still required to provide employees with health insurance the gives them access to abortive and contraceptive drugs despite their conscientious objections. For those institutions, this rule reiterates the thoroughly inadequate “remedy” offered in the last round of rulemaking (and broadly rejected by religious institutions): Basically, religious organizations subject to Obamacare’s employer mandate would provide notice to their insurers who would then be required to provide each institution’s covered employees (or students, in the case of a university) with abortive and contraceptive coverage through “separate individual health insurance policies” that don’t cost them any additional money. It is of course far from clear what right HHS has to order insurers to do this, but since Obamacare makes insurers the government’s playthings anyway, it hardly matters I suppose.

So basically, the religious institutions are required by the government to give their workers an insurer and that insurer is required by the government to give those workers abortive and contraceptive coverage, but somehow these religious employers are supposed to imagine that they’re not giving their workers access to abortive and contraceptive coverage. If religious people thought about their religious obligations the way HHS lawyers think about the law, this might just work. But they don’t.

No matter how you cut it, this administration simply doesn’t understand religious freedom.  It’s a pesky thing for progressives.  They can’t have any institutions emancipated from the broad, and ruthless, arm of government regulation.  It doesn’t matter if they’re buying it through a third-party provider.  There is no separate, but equal spin you can dish out on this new proposal.  Catholic hospitals and universities, which are linked to the Church, will be forced to provide contraceptives that violates their doctrinal beliefs.

Lila Rose, President of Live Action, which monitors malfeasance conducted by Planned Parenthood, had this to say.

Today’s proposed rules by the administration do practically nothing to lessenPresident Obama’s attack on religious freedom. Catholic institutions and other religious hospitals, universities and private employers are still being forced to either violate their beliefs or pay crippling government fines for practicing their faith.  This extreme government intrusion is not only a violation of the First Amendment rights of millions of Americans, it is also a vehicle for continued record funding for the abortion industry by the Obama administration.

As conscience protection are an essential American institution cherished by left and right alike, the only sure path back to religious liberty in our country demands Congress to completely repeal the HHS mandate

Additionally, Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network released this statement.

Today’s proposed regulation is no solution at all and is just a rehashing of the same accounting shell game roundly rejected when it was first proposed last year.  Catholic charities along with religious hospitals and universities are not exempt and are faced with the horrible choice of either violating the deeply help religious beliefs of pay crippling fines that would hurt their ability to serve.  The proposed regulation also continues to leave individual business-owners out in the cold, consistent with the administration’s litigation position that the very individuals working to grow our economy must leave their  First Amendment religious freedoms at the door.

The lack of genuine accommodation suggests that the only reason for today’s announcement was to alleviate growing concerns from the courts that the government has been using its nebulous future rule as a delay tactic in litigation.  In fact, the proposed mechanism of forcing third party insurers to provide the contested coverage will likely give rise to a new wave of lawsuits as it appears to be completely devoid of statutory or constitutional basis.

However, some on the left, like the Sandra Fluke, think that if we oppose this mandate – we’re somehow ‘opposing leukemia coverage.’  I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about that, but it’s the Catholic hierarchy that unleashed this monster.  In 2010, when every conservative rallied against Obamacare, it was the Catholic Conference of Bishops that penned a letter voicing their support for government-run health care. The also backed amnesty for illegals, which could increase the overall cost of Obamacare over the next ten years.

Yes, Obama has given some $2 billion to Catholic charities, but that doesn’t mean he won’t think twice about screwing them over to implement his hyper-regulatory progressive state.  While I will stand with my Catholic conservatives, they should know that they’re complicit  in this fiasco, and it will take a lot of heavy political campaigning/messaging to undo the constitutional harm that has been inflicted on our nation.

Matt Vespa is a conservative blogger who contributes to CNS News, RedState, Noodle Pundit, and was formerly with Hot Air's GreenRoom.
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