'ObamaCare Catch-22': Crushing Fines for Religious Entities in Mandate

Before the House repealed ObamaCare once more last week, another bill was introduced to stop the Department of Health and Human Services from charging religious institutions steep fines for noncompliance with the mandate to provide birth control without an insurance co-payment.

Under President Obama's healthcare law, the HHS can levy $100 per employee, per day against institutions that won't comply with the mandate.

Therefore, religious employers with hundreds of employees could be fined millions of dollars each year. A 50-employee institution, for example, would face a penalty of $1,825,000 each year.

“ObamaCare gives the federal government the tools to tax religiously affiliated schools, hospitals, universities and soup kitchens right out of existence,” said Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), sponsor of the Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act.

Using the language that the Supreme Court recently decided covered the penalties in ObamaCare, Sensenbrenner cites a February report by the Congressional Research Service that adds up the noncompliance tax to $36,500 annually per employee. Any group health plan and health insurance issuer subject to insurance market reforms in Title I of the Affordable Care Act that objects to coverage requirements based on religious and moral convictions does not qualify for an exemption.

The Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act would exempt such employers from any excise tax and certain lawsuits and penalties for refusing to provide objectionable coverage.

The bill has 67 co-sponsors, including House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas), and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

Another co-sponsor who was standing with Sensenbrenner at the press conference announcing the bill's introduction was Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), whose Respect for Rights of Conscience Act to strike down the mandate was brought to the Senate floor by Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) as an amendment to a highway bill.

The Blunt amendment failed 51-48.

Sensenbrenner told PJM on Friday that he thought that was a "premature" way to battle the mandate.

"I've said very plainly to all of the participants -- they need to build some kind of a grass-roots support for this kind of legislation in order to get the kind of vote we need to impress upon the administration that they're wrong on this issue," the Wisconsin Republican said.

He added that though he hears some criticism from conservative Catholics who want to stop at nothing less than full repeal, "Well, we can't do that now."

Fortenberry, said Sensenbrenner, "recognizes where we're at on this."