Obama has offered churches an accommodation in the contraceptive insurance brouhaha. Churches per se, and their associated outreach programs and businesses (e.g., schools, hospitals, thrift shops and even traditional businesses) are no longer required to offer contraceptive insurance as part of their health insurance package. However, if a church does not offer contraceptives in its insurance, the insurance company must offer it free.
It is believed that insurance companies will save enough in pregnancy prevention to more than cover the initial cost, which will be substantial. The likelihood of insurance companies not attempting to, in some fashion, cover at least some of its costs in premiums is negligible approaching nil, according to some skeptics. Part of the reason for that is the reality that companies change insurance providers constantly, and insurance companies that pony up now may no longer be associated with these institutions as the non-event benefits become clear.
But this debate isn't about premiums, or downstream savings... this fight is about whether ANY religion can be required to follow any federal law or rule it doesn't like. In this case, the Roman Catholic Church is leading the fight against contraceptive insurance, but only verbally. EWTN Global Catholic TV Network, NOT the Church hierarchy, filed the lawsuit to block the rules before they were "tweaked," and have announced no plans to withdraw the suit.
The fight is also about the Presidential election. Although Obama has announced that any religious organization that wishes to take advantage of the new rules will have until 2013 before they go into effect (to allow for further negotiation), House Speaker Boehner announced his intent to repeal the rules, which would then make all religious organizations subject to the basic rule requiring TOTAL coverage, something approaching the "Mother of All Unintended Consequences."
Nobody expected a presidential election fight over contraception insurance, and no one was ready for it. Republicans are pontificating that the rule "...tramples upon the first amendment." Democrats are firing back that the alternative demanded by the Catholic Church (and now several fundamentalist and evangelistic denominations) is medieval and denies some women basic health care because of where they work. No one, however, seems to have a handle on where exactly to take this.
To hear the politicians and church leaders howl, a listener would think that contraceptive insurance was a new issue, a radical change in health insurance realities in America today. Wrong! According to the Chicago Tribune, here's what's going on... and it's utterly cynical and dishonest:
"...long before the Obama administration acted, 28 states -- including Mitt Romney's home state of Massachusetts and Newt Gingrich's home state of Georgia -- had already adopted regulations requiring contraception coverage without co-pay. Eight of those states, by the way, don't even provide an opt-out provision for churches. And you'd certainly never know that many leading Catholic universities -- including Catholic University, America's biggest Catholic university -- include free contraception coverage as part of their basic health insurance for all employees."
After noting that according to a recent poll, 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women use birth control, the article continues:
"So now, by demanding government permission to deny contraception coverage in their own health plans, what Catholic bishops are really trying to do is get President Obama to deliver where they have failed."
President Obama needs to point out that this is NOT about "government control of your lives" as claimed by Rick Santorum. It's about allowing every woman in America access to an essential preventive health care service. That's his job... not enforcing a 1968 encyclical, or any other religion's ban on essential health care.
Photo Source: Wikipedia Commons