Political Animal


February 01, 2013 12:56 PM Contraception Coverage Exemptions: It’s About Power, Not Money

By Ed Kilgore

We’ll have to see what the details are like, but reports abound that the Department of Health and Human Resources will release today a new set of regs providing a way that religiously affiliated organizations—particularly those that self-insure for their employees’ health insurance—can avoid the violence to their tender consciences of paying for mandated contraception coverage—without their employees losing the coverage.

Here’s CNN’s take:

In March, after an uproar among religious institutions that didn’t want to pay for contraceptives, the Obama administration offered several policy suggestions that would require the administrator of the insurance policy, not the religious institution or the insurer, to pay for contraception coverage and invited comment on those proposals. The administration is expected to detail how it will handle two of the more controversial situations, said a source familiar with Friday’s announcement.
“Religiously affiliated organizations will be given the option of exempting themselves from the requirement of providing their employees with contraceptive access or service that they are morally opposed to,” said the source….
If an institution opts out of paying for contraceptive coverage, individual employees will get coverage through a third entity. That separate exchange, said the source, would be paid for by the insurance company.
The second proposal would address self-insurers, organizations that are large enough to pay for their own health care costs, such as a large Catholic diocese.
Those groups, according to the source, will be exempt from having to provide contraceptives, but their employees would be allowed access to contraceptive coverage through other means.

Not real clear, is it?

What is clear is that the administration has no intention (so far, at least) of going the whole hog and letting any private employer who claims a personal religious or moral objection to contraception coverage—say, the proprietors of Hobby Lobby, who have sued to have the mandate voided on First Amendment grounds—will be given access to any sort of exception.

The only thing that will satisfy critics of the mandate, of course, is this sort of self-triggered plenary exemption, and/or a restriction of the mandate to exclude contraceptive devices and drugs that anti-choicers consider “abortifacients,” which generally means Plan B and IUDs, but for some means “the pill” itself.

And any “solution” that doesn’t effectively allow employers—religiously affiliated or otherwise—to keep their employees from obtaining subsidized contraceptive coverage won’t cut much ice, either.

It’s not about the money; it’s about the power. Keep that in mind as this controversy continues.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • K in VA on February 01, 2013 12:37 PM:

    Bullies can never be totally appeased.

  • bigtuna on February 01, 2013 12:51 PM:

    Again, I am no expert on the Bill of Rights. However, how are the owners of The Hobby Lobby impeded from attending the church of their choice; affected by the state in any way regarding worshiping in the way they choose; associating with fellow church goers, etc., by this law?

    The ACA does notiong regarding maing a law respecting the establishment of religion, nor does it prohibit the free exercise thereof.

    ACA does not force them to worship at the church of the IUD, or whatever.

    They don't like that the law violates their regligions principles, and that tax funding goes to what they do not agree. My religious principles are deeply offended by our over dependance and excess use of military that results in the death of thousands; I am sure that Quakers, and others, are likewise offended. However, were we to try to withold a portion of our tax dollars prorated to what I think is proportional to its use in torture, or killing of civilians in Iraq, etc., I suspect the IRS and the DOJ would have something to say about it.

    So, why do we give in to this so called issue of religious freedom? HOW are their rights affected in ANY WAY ????????!!!!!!!!

  • boatboy_srq on February 01, 2013 12:55 PM:

    The Reichwing: against family planning since 1620. Because nothing says "Freedom™" like preventing half the population from making decisions about their own health and families.

    Doesn't anyone remember the bad old days before Roe and Griswold, when "birth control" (aka abortion) was something women did in the privacy of their own homes with a bottle of lye or a knitting needle? "Safe and legal" isn't just a slogan.

    Captcha: bridal Pravelo. ???

  • c u n d gulag on February 01, 2013 1:19 PM:

    This is just another epic hissy-fit by Christians, the other MOST HORRIBLY aggrieved group in the country, along with Conservatives - and here, the two are practically inseperable.

    If this same ACA plan had been proposed by George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole (had he won), George W. Bush, John McCain (had he won), or Mitt Romney (if he had won in 2008), NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THESE GROUPS WOULD HAVE SAID A WORD!


    But, because it came from President Obama and the Democrats, they're acting like they're either being crucified, crushed by stones, or burned at the stake, by the government.

    Feck them.
    Feck them all!

    Most religions have only two purposes:
    -Keep the grift alive and profitable.
    -Keep women in their place.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on February 01, 2013 2:01 PM:

    This is some pretty damn 3rd-grade level type stuff. They remind me of when I used to have my little mini-tantrums, say, when there was no cookies-n-cream ice cream and my mother would ask, "Well, what do you want instead?", and say "NOTHING!!!", as if I had really accomplished something. As if her asking me gave me some kind of power that was too irresistible for me to take advantage, even if I had nothing to gain from it... And I felt damn good about getting absolutely nothing for that little power trip.

  • Lifelong Dem on February 01, 2013 3:20 PM:

    The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends making birth control pills available over the counter.


    Seems to me such action would remove oral contraceptives from the realm of insurance coverage and stop all this BS about religious freedom.

  • Anonymous on February 01, 2013 3:55 PM:

    Re: Lifelong Dem

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! OTC access to birth control???? gasps The horror! What about those poor, god-fearing cashiers who have participate in that sinful transaction??? The absolute horror of not having something to feign outrage about!!!

    Now that right there would just solve the problem. And we all know that the GOP ain't big on actually solving problems. They don't do solutions.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on February 01, 2013 3:57 PM:

    that was me, Anonymous @ 3:55PM

  • zandru on February 01, 2013 5:16 PM:

    Per bigtuna "how are the owners of The Hobby Lobby impeded from attending the church of their choice..."

    You misconstrue the current, and debased, meaning of "freedom of religion" under our rightwing-slanted political discourse. These days, "freedom of religion" means being able to force your restrictive practices upon the rest of the population, regardless of their own beliefs, with enforcement provided by the federal government. Bizarre, huh?

    Per Lifelong Dem and OTC birth control pills: Sure, but they are EXPENSIVE. Making them OTC might not bring down the price any. (Why would Pharma choose to make less money") Women would end up paying a couple of dollars a day for a legal drug that their very-expensive medical insurance plans should be covering for them - and which, when taken, has the effect of DECREASING the women's "cost" to the system.

  • Doug on February 01, 2013 7:02 PM:

    re OTC: Doesn't HCI cover "prescriptions"? Does a "prescription" HAVE to be something ONLY available via a pharmicist? Couldn't a physician write out a prescription for an OTC and wouldn't that suffice for insurance purposes? It would mean the insuree would have to pay up front and then file to get the money back, of course and THAT could lead to some, um, "accidents"...
    As to the proposals by the HHS, I think they'll satisfy all reasonable people, while protecting any actual damage to tender consciences. Which means the RWNJs/Evangelicals/RC hierarchy will ALL have their panties in a twist, thus even further marginalizing them.
    I say go for it.