We all know there is no such thing as a free lunch, but the Obama administration has decided to move forward with its mandate that private insurance companies must provide "free" coverage of contraception and sterilization procedures, as well as an abortion pill called "ella"--which is much friendlier sounding than its "close chemical relative" RU-486.
Religious organizations had pushed for a conscience exemption, but the Obama administration has denied their request. "The Obama administration will allow religious organizations a one-year delay before they must comply with a new rule requiring employers that offer workers health insurance to include access to contraception with no out-of-pocket cost," the Washington Post reports. That means that employers opposed to abortion--even Catholic schools, hospitals, and charities--will be required to provide health care coverage that they find morally objectionable. The Obamacare rule does retain a very narrow exemption for houses of worship.
As blogger Matthew Yglesias noted in August when the Obama administration first proposed this mandate, "the practical impact will be higher premiums, resulting in cross-subsidy of birth control by people who don’t use birth control." As Jeffrey H. Anderson wrote at the time:
[U]nder Sebelius’s decree, anyone with cancer, a heart ailment, or a major injury will have to pay copays and deductibles, but anyone who wants to go on the pill or rent breastfeeding equipment won’t incur any personal cost — and nobody will be free to decide otherwise. In other words, certain forms of voluntary or elective care (the type of care that a lot of health insurance might well be expected not to cover at all, and once didn’t) will now be granted a status more favorable than is accorded serious medical conditions. Sebelius has turned things on their head — and imposed that inversion across the land. This is what politicized medicine looks like.
In all, Sebelius’s decree will prevent Americans from freely deciding what they want their own health policies to cover. It will force them to pay for other people’s care — even if they find that care to be morally objectionable. It will force those who have religious or moral objections to contraception to pay for contraception — including long-term contraception that many people now assume they can’t afford. And it will force even the most ardent pro-lifer to pay for abortion pills.
A Rasmussen poll from August found that 39% of voters favored forcing health insurers to cover contraception, while 46% were opposed and 15% were undecided. Though the contraception mandate is not terribly popular, it's not nearly as unpopular as Obamacare's coverage of taxpayer-funded abortions. A Quinnipiac poll conducted during the debate on Obamacare found that 72% of voters opposed using public funds to pay for abortions under Obamacare.
Update: The United States Council of Catholic bishops condemn the Obama administration's decision as "literally unconscionable":
“In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” said Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The cardinal-designate continued, “To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable.It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom. Historically this represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty."
The HHS rule requires that sterilization and contraception – including controversial abortifacients – be included among “preventive services” coverage in almost every healthcare plan available to Americans. “The government should not force Americans to act as if pregnancy is a disease to be prevented at all costs,” added Cardinal-designate Dolan.