Friday night news dump: Administration to move forward with and expand contraception mandate

The administration this afternoon released its “Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on preventive services policy.” Translation: President Barack Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius are moving forward with their controversial contraception mandate, which requires even religiously affiliated employers to provide their employees with insurance that covers contraception — even if those employers object to contraception on religious grounds.

But don’t worry: Secretary Sebelius says your religious liberty is assured, so it is assured.

“The President’s policy respects religious liberty and makes free preventive services available to women,” she said. ”Today’s announcement is the next step toward fulfilling that commitment.”

Never mind that, by drawing a distinction between actual churches and church-operated businesses like hospitals and schools, the administration effectively appropriated for itself the power to determine what constitutes ministry. Also, last I checked, there was no such thing as “free preventive services.”

Sandra Fluke should be happy, though. The administration made a final decision about whether it will require colleges to provide  students with insurance that covers contraception, as well. Take one wild guess as to what their decision was. Yep, that’s right:

Administration officials also released a final rule governing student health plans.  Under the final rule, students will gain the same consumer protections other people with individual market insurance have, like a prohibition on lifetime limits and coverage of preventive services without cost sharing.  In the same way that religious colleges and universities will not have to pay, arrange or refer for contraceptive coverage for their employees, they will not have to do so for their students who will get such coverage directly and separately from their insurer.

Note that the administration still pretends the mandate isn’t a mandate on religious employers if the insurers have to provide contraception coverage “directly and separately” to employees and students. Actually, it’s still a conscience-violating mandate, as Ed explained when the administration first announced its “accommodation”:

So these employers will still have to provide the health insurance, and the health insurance must cover the contraception and abortifacients.  The White House apparently wants to pretend that the funds for these outlays will come off of the Unobtanium Tree, where insurers find money to cover all mandates.  This exposes once again a stunning ignorance of risk pools and how costs are passed along to consumers.

Let’s just take this one step at a time.  Where do insurers get money to pay claims?  They collect premiums and co-pays from the insured group or risk pool.  No matter what the Obama administration wants to say now, the money that will cover those contraception costs will come from the religious organizations that must now by law buy that insurance and pay those premiums.  Their religious doctrines have long-standing prohibitions against participating in contraception and abortion, and nothing in this “accommodation” changes the fact that the government is now forcing them to both fund and facilitate access to products and services that offend their practice of religion.

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.

Consider also that many religious employers are self-insured and have no insurer onto whom they can push the cost of contraception insurance.

The timing of this announcement just couldn’t have been better. As The Washington Examiner’s Joel Gehrke put it, “The announcement came late Friday afternoon, on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, as the second day of March Madness basketball games were under way.” People skip work to watch March Madness. Think they’re going to turn off the TV to dig up a dry statement from Her Consistency Kathleen Sebelius? Not likely.

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