Ed Driscoll

Magical Thinking at the White House

Ace asks a question that all of us have pondered at one point or another in the career of Barack H. Obama. “Has he gone insane?” As Ace notes in his headline, “Obama’s Compromise: I’ll Just Mandate That Employers Contract With Insurers To Cover Contraception For Free, and Hence Employers Cannot Be Said To Be Paying For It:”

The revised Obama mandate will make religious groups contract with insurers to offer birth control and the potentially abortion-causing drugs to women at no cost. The revised mandate will have religious employers refer women to their insurance company for coverage that still violates their moral and religious beliefs. Under this plan, every insurance company will be obligated to provide coverage at no cost.Essentially, religious groups will still be mandated to offer plans that cover both birth control and the ella abortion drug

According to Obama administration officials on a conference call this morning, a woman’s insurance company “will be required to reach out directly and offer her contraceptive care free of charge. The religious institutions will not have to pay for it.”

The birth control and abortion-causing drugs will simply be “part of the bundle of services that all insurance companies are required to offer,” White House officials said.

So here’s how this works.

I’m an insurer. Here were your two options, before Obama’s brilliant solution:

I could cover your employees for x dollars.

If you want birth control/abortifacient coverage, we’ll add that rider for y dollars. So this option is x + y dollars.

Obama’s genius solution is:

Hey, we’ll cover your employees for x + y dollars as a baseline. But we’ll toss in abortifacient coverage for 0 dollars.

Uhhh… That x+y is what it cost to have base insurance + birth control/abortifacient coverage. All that’s being done here is that people are lying about the costs — now the insurer and the contracting party lie and pretend the base insurance cost is x + y (which it isn’t; it’s x) and also pretend the cost for the birth control coverage is 0 (which it isn’t; it’s y).

All Obama’s doing is mandating that employers enter into a contract with insurers in which both parties pretend that the base cost of the service is higher than it is, and that abortifacient coverage now costs zero dollars.

Obama’s mandate solution is now just to force the conscience-objectors to lie about it.

At Hot Air, Ed Morrissey concurs with that last sentence:

Basically, the Obama administration told religious organizations to stop complaining and get in line.  This “accommodation” only attempts to accommodate Obama’s political standing and nothing more.

Update: The LA Times’ Jon Healy calls this new position “magical thinking”:

Here’s where the magical thinking comes in. The following is from the fact sheet the White House released Friday:

Covering contraception saves money for insurance companies by keeping women healthy and preventing spending on other health services. For example, there was no increase in premiums when contraception was added to the Federal Employees Health Benefit System and required of non-religious employers in Hawaii. One study found that covering contraception lowered premiums by 10 percent or more.

Making everyone in a pool carry coverage whether they need it or not spreads the cost, saving money for those who really do need it and who’d choose to carry it if it were merely optional. But costs faced by the insurer are the same — and when the care is provided with no out-of-pocket costs, the insurer’s costs are likely to go up because more people will use it. Such is likely to be the case with contraception.

Also, let me emphasize one point that this does not address.  The government is forcing religious organizations to both pay for and facilitate activities that violate their religious doctrine.  If anyone thinks that passes muster with the First Amendment, that’s even more magical thinking than this funding shell game.

Mr. Obama has engaged in magical thinking throughout his public career. However, I’m not sure if the L.A. Times is the best source to attack him from that angle, lest anyone recall this infamous moment from the paper.