Obama's Big Compromise With The Catholic Church Is An Accounting Trick

Barack Obama Catholic Church

Photo: AP/FlickrUser Catholic Church (England and Wales)-Creative Commons

Around noon today Barack Obama announced his big compromise with religious (Catholic) institutions like schools and hospitals over whether they will be required to offer health insurance that includes co-pay free contraception, sterilization, and ‘morning after’ pills. Here’s the political problem. 

Employees can’t pay for it: that would violate the political demands of progressives, women’s groups, and health organisations that insist this coverage must be free. 

Catholics can’t pay for it: morally it isn’t much different from paying a Quaker in hand-grenades. The Church can’t directly subsidise sin without being guilty of the sin itself. 

So, Obama came up with an ingenious solution: “No-one will pay for it.” 

In his speech, Obama explained that Catholic hospitals, schools, and charities will not be forced to purchase something that violates their moral beliefs. But that the insurance companies they employ will simply provide it to those employees at no cost to them. 

“Insurance companies will be required to provide contraception coverage to these women free of charge,” the White House said in a statement. “Religious organisations will not have to provide contraceptive coverage or refer their employees to organisations that provide contraception. Religious organisations will not be required to subsidise the cost of contraception.”

Huh? How does that work? 

Basically it amounts to this. Catholic institutions will agree to a contract with a health-insurer. And the health insurer will not put a line item on the bill for birth control, sterilization, and ‘morning-after’ drugs. But the insurer will pay for it anyway. 

Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post, pretends that insurers will essentially make non-religious employers indirectly subsidise the coverage for religious employers. 

Where will it come from, since neither employers nor employees will be paying for these contraceptives? That leaves the insurers, whose revenues come from the premiums that subscribers pay them. It’s difficult to see how insurance companies would avoid using premiums to cover the costs of contraceptives. They could, perhaps, use premiums from non-religious employers. Those businesses wouldn’t likely object on faith-based grounds, but they probably wouldn’t be keen on footing the bill for people who aren’t on their payrolls.

But let’s be real. Insurers, who owe Obama a big favour after he mandated that all Americans buy their products, will just pretend Catholic employers are not paying for these things when they obviously are. 

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