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Not a Real Olive Branch

Obama’s phony compromise on contraception.

Feb 18, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 22 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
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Defenders of the new approach excuse the fiat by noting that issuers of free insurance policies “may qualify for a reduction in the user fee” they pay for participating in federally facilitated insurance exchanges. But note the paper-pushing required to obtain the offset. Insurance companies providing free birth control coverage must, among other bureaucratic reporting requirements:

- “Provide monthly data on the number of individuals to whom the contraceptive coverage is being provided”;

- Attest that all recipients of the policy “received a copy of the written notice” of coverage that must be given to all employees;

- Attest “that the issuer provided contraceptive coverage” according to the provisions of the rule;

- “Identify the QHP(s) [Qualifying Health Plan(s)] being offered through a Federally-facilitated Exchange with respect to .  .  . the user fee reduction”;

- “Submit an estimate of the cost of contraceptive coverage to HHS for approval, in the manner and timeframe specified by HHS, concurrent with documentation or data supporting that estimate.”

Rather than do all that—or sue the government for forcing them to supply a free product—many insurers may find it easier not to offer coverage to religious organizations opposed to contraception. Hmm .  .  . perhaps that is one of the points.

When you think about it, the free-birth-control “compromise” is ingenious statism. With the private sector forced to foot the bill for unwanted contraceptive coverage, the regulation appears more difficult to oppose on First Amendment grounds. This allows the media to claim, falsely, that the administration has backed off its moral imperialism against (mostly) Catholic charitable organizations. It also generates bitterness, churning, turmoil, and political division—the Obama administration’s favorite governing stance—and does so in such a complicated way that opponents of this coercion can be made to appear as if they are the unreasonable ones. 

The issue here is not contraception, but the demolition of limited government. If the Obama administration can force the private sector to provide a free product to help the government circumvent a constitutionally protected freedom, what can it not do? Why not also one day mandate free, universal coverage of abortion? After all, the president and many of his supporters plainly would regard this as enlightened policy. For that matter, why should the ability to force the private sector to pay for favored social agendas be limited to health care? If this “compromise” sticks, all manner of power grabbers and social engineers will be rubbing their hands in eager anticipation of all the “good” they can do. 

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. He also consults for the Patients Rights Council and the Center for Bioethics and Culture. 

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