Secretary Sebelius and “Document Dump Friday”: Protecting religious liberty?
In Washington, DC, the pattern for just about any administration is to “dump” bad news late on Friday afternoon. The ostensible goal is to draw as little attention as possible to those news items so they “die” over the weekend without notice.
Last Friday proved no different with the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius dumping the news that under the Obamacare healthcare reforms, the healthcare insurance plans that most colleges offer will now have to include contraceptive coverage at no cost.
Although the new HHS regulation apply to religious and secular colleges, HHS allows religious institutions one additional year to comply.
There is one loophole: Colleges offering students self-insured healthcare plans—in which colleges pool students’ premiums to pay for healthcare services rather than purchasing an insurance policy—will not be required to cover contraception. HHS estimates that ~200k students (of an estimated 1M to 3M students) rely on these self-insured plans.
This loophole leaves President Obama’s so-called “compromise” intact: The healthcare insurer—not the institution—will pay for the “free” coverage which must be included in all policies.
Some religious colleges, like Belmont Abbey College, have sued the government, arguing in part that Church teaching forbids premarital sex as well as artificial forms of birth control. They ask: How can these institutions uphold Church teaching and offer students contraception free of charge?
The Motley Monk would note that this “duplicity” argument actually matters little to this administration. Remember when President Obama was lobbying hard for the passage of his healthcare “reforms” and guaranteed that the “conscience clause” exemption would be respected?
Respecting religious liberty?
However, Ms. Sebelieus did her best to protect her boss on Friday while announcing the new regulation when she said:
The President’s policy respects religious liberty and makes free preventive services available to women. Today’s announcement is the next step toward fulfilling that commitment.
Let’s hope the United States Supreme Court has greater respect for conscience and religious liberty next week when oral arguments about the constitutionality of the Obamacare “individual mandate” are heard.
Let the discussion begin…
To read the HHS press release, click on the following link:
To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, click on the following link: