Republicans in Congress have gone to war over the administration’s new rule requiring employers and insurers to provide contraception coverage to women. Despite the fact that the regulation already excludes more than 335,000 entities, Republicans have introduced legislation seeking to expand the conscience clause protection to exclude even more religiously affiliated institutions from the requirement. The move, which is opposed by women’s groups, would significantly restrict access to affordable birth control by allowing Catholic colleges, universities, or hospitals to deny contraception coverage. As a result, these women would have to spend up to $600 a year buying birth control without the help of insurance.
Tp has this mostly correct, but the weird thing about the contraceptive policy of which the Obama administration is accused of creating an entirely new legal precedent is that is the same policy in place during the Bush administration – which neither Bush or the largely same Congressional Republicans and conservative spokespersons and pundits said nothing about. If you’re a moderate Methodist or Catholic or whatever denomination, or if you’re not particularly religious and work for a Catholic college or hospital, conservatives now claim – along with U.S. bishops, that your civil rights should be suborned to Vatican City doctrine. Furthermore, that the U.S. government should help the Vatican enforce its policy on those employees – the opposite of the religious freedoms conservatives say they stand for.
But interestingly, members of Congress who seek to limit the availability of affordable birth control all enjoy contraception insurance as part of the government managed Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB). Members first approved the so-called “contraception equity” provision in 1998, through the FY 1999 Omnibus Supplemental Appropriations Act, H.R. 4328, PL 105-277, and have passed the measure ever since. The language “ensures that federal employees participating in FEHBP have insurance coverage of FDA-approved prescription contraceptives and related services.”
A ThinkProgress analysis reveals that 12 members of Congress who approved the conference report for the 1999 omnibus bill have signed on as co-sponsors of the current GOP-led measure to limit women’s access to contraception by changing the Obama administration’s rule.
[ ]…An official at the Office of Personnel Management, which administrates the program, has confirmed to ThinkProgress that all FEHB plans provide coverage for contraception, meaning that every single member of Congress opposing Obama’s rule now has the birth control coverage they’re seeking to deny to others.
This goes back to the same arguments conservatives in Congress were making against ObamaCare. Government assisted health insurance is good for them, but should not be allowed for the general public. if memory serves exactly one conservative House – realizing this was true – refused his insurance benefits – at least he said he did.
Like my colleague Scott Lemieux, I was a little worried when the Obama administration announced that it would present a compromise on its recent decision to require full contraceptive coverage from employers, including those with religious affiliations, like Catholic hospitals and schools. It’s not as if the public is opposed to the decision—as I noted yesterday, 55 percent of Americans agree that “employers should be required to provide their employees with health-care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost.” This includes 58 percent of Catholics and 52 percent of Catholic voters. Anything that moved away from the administration’s prior commitment to full coverage for women would be a capitulation to a small minority of politically charged religious authorities.
As it turns out, the administration was serious about its commitment to women’s health care and refrained from making serious concessions. According to the revised policy, employees will still receive contraceptive coverage at no extra cost, directly provided by the insurance company, instead of the employer. What’s more, it guarantees that employees can receive their contraception without interference from employers or insurers. In other words, this allows Catholic hospitals and other organizations to maintain their distance from birth control, while still providing birth-control coverage for women. Indeed, as Scott points out, Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Hospital Association, announced that she was “very pleased” with the agreement.
Conservatives have latched on to the free part. Again, for people who claim to be thoroughly informed on public policy issues, have suddenly discovered that insurance companies have been providing contraception benefits for years. Insurance companies are capitalistic enterprises so why would they give away contraception (depending on circumstances some insured may have a co-pay – that is my understanding)? Individual circumstances can vary a lot, but on average an uncomplicated pregnancy costs $9,000. A pregnancy with an uncomplicated cesarean section is approximately $15,000. With related costs, that do not have to include the most stylish baby clothes or newest baby related equipment like cribs, strollers – the first year can easily run up to $20,000. A years worth of birth control pills costs an insurance company a lot less than a pregnancy. If you think insurance companies should be able to maximize profits, than birth control is a cheap investment. I’ve read a few right-wing bloggers who are either blissfully ignorant of insurance company practices or intentionally leave out that information – that includes discussions by the talking heads at Fox News. Well, isn’t the costs of that medication passed on to other people who do not use birth control. Sure you can make that case just as you can make the case that any cost incurred by insurance companies are passed on to policy holders. It is a risk pool. We have the philosophical gibberish of insurance theory which states that insurance is the business of transferring risks or partial risks of a person or entity to the insurance company. In this perfect, on paper model, you pay only for the risks that you present. There are statistical problems with that paper theory. Humans and nature are not predictable. On paper we could start an insurance company that only insures people who do not use oral contraceptives, swear they will not have sex. Let’s assume – stats say otherwise – that these people have a very low pregnancy rate. We charge them for health insurance based on that. That is our risk pool – where our premium payments come from and where our payouts go to. What happens when a percentage of them do get pregnant. We have to pay out of the risk pool that was calculated on them not doing so. Our great and wise plan to make a profit went out the window by only selling insurance to people who told us they would behave one way and behaved another. We could go back to a statically realistic pool of insured. One that includes everyone. This is the insurance risk model based on the real world, not a textbook definition of what insurance is, or should be based on conservative or libertarian perfect markets. Which do not and have never existed. In the real world people who are we really going to get carried away differentiating women that could possibly get pregnant from women who have gone through menopause or from men who cannot get pregnant – or women who swear they will not get pregnant because that is what they believe. Again shifting pools of insured too much is unrealistic. Men have all sorts of issues related to their reproductive and urinary-genital health. That ranges from prostate enlargement to bladder infections to kidney stones to fertility to impotence. Insurance companies that insured only men would end up with an analogous risk pool as an insurance company that only insured women. I’ve read a conservative make the argument that if insurance companies could just be allowed to insure say people who ate healthy and exercised, thus excluding those who did not, the great liberal plot to limit insurance companies profits would finally end. Insurance companies do charge a little more for people known to be at higher risks. That is balanced by the fact that people have unknown or unpredictable risks. It might be that those in the health conscious pool are also statistically more prone to have oncogenes or hereditary mental heath diseases. Who knows. We could start another insurance pool that only included people least likely to have health problems. A very small pool in the real world – everyone who lives long enough has health issues. Profits would be lowered simply by the size of the new special pool. Spreading out risks over a variety of people still seems the best way to maximize profits. If conservatives who write on the web or shoot off their traps on AM radio really knew anything about how insurance markets work, instead of a definition they read in a dictionary, they’d know that.
Insurance companies can take a hit on insuring the chronically ill. That is an interesting debate – based on balancing profits with the morality of letting the very ill just die. It is a distinctly different subject than contraception related insurance.
Romney won the relatively meaningless CPAC straw poll. Mr Sweater Vest says there is something funny go’in on – Rick Santorum Says Romney Rigged Straw Poll
Liberals and progressives may not say it enough, but they believe that able-bodied adults should work. Take an interests in and pride in their work. Besides the obvious reasons for earning a living there is a lot of personal and moral satisfaction from doing a good job, even if your boss is a jerk. Though being adults and not having the contempt for the reality of human experience that plagues conservatism, we also know that life, despite our best efforts to be independent and not have to rely too much on others, is not fair. While that might not be as high brow as some political theorists put it, it is what liberals and progressives believe. Like the inevitability of health problems, bad luck hits us all. Unless one is fortunate enough to have a big bank account or parents that do ( Romney, the Koch brothers, Rand Paul) we all end up needing help eventually. In the U.S. admitting that simple fact of our assistance is called various things by the far Right – belief in unlimited welfare to communism. Since conservatives are pretty much in control of the national narrative, people still feel stigmatized by the fact that they might need a little help. We Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It
Ki Gulbranson owns a logo apparel shop, deals in jewelry on the side and referees youth soccer games. He makes about $39,000 a year and wants you to know that he does not need any help from the federal government.
He says that too many Americans lean on taxpayers rather than living within their means. He supports politicians who promise to cut government spending. In 2010, he printed T-shirts for the Tea Party campaign of a neighbor, Chip Cravaack, who ousted this region’s long-serving Democratic congressman.
Yet this year, as in each of the past three years, Mr. Gulbranson, 57, is counting on a payment of several thousand dollars from the federal government, a subsidy for working families called the earned-income tax credit. He has signed up his three school-age children to eat free breakfast and lunch at federal expense. And Medicare paid for his mother, 88, to have hip surgery twice.
There is little poverty here in Chisago County, northeast of Minneapolis, where cheap housing for commuters is gradually replacing farmland. But Mr. Gulbranson and many other residents who describe themselves as self-sufficient members of the American middle class and as opponents of government largess are drawing more deeply on that government with each passing year.
This reminds me of the Matt Taibbi piece in Rolling Stone about the tea baggers – we want all these government programs to stop, except the ones that pay us. Conservatives collect government benefits, but hey they feel bad about it. Or as Jesse Singal points out they are collect them and are completely ignorant that those are part of a program run by the government for the common good,
Last year Cornell political scientist Suzanne Mettler found that many Americans who receive government assistance aren’t aware of that fact — 44.1% of Social Security recipients, for example, said that they don’t receive a government benefit.
Henry Farrell summed up the ramifications of this quite nicely:
Mettler’s basic argument is that because the US welfare state is ‘submerged’ and sliced up among a variety of different programs, many of which operate indirectly rather than directly, it is mostly invisible to US citizens. This has obvious political consequences – ‘government social programs’ are equated to ‘welfare’ and stigmatized. The fact that nearly half of Social Security recipients do not believe that they have benefited from a government social program, and that the same is true of some 40% of G.I. Bill beneficiaries and Medicare recipients is a rather extraordinary one.
Personal anecdotal experience is not a great way to measure public behavior. That said it has been my experience that people are very much in denial about their gov’mint benefits coming from the government. I have a relative who had to have some very expensive medical treatment to save their life. It was all paid for by Medicare and another program related to veterans benefits as is the medication they take til this very day. And yes they complain about people getting government handouts like the ones they received. First, these programs are not handouts. We all pay into them or they are part of our total compensation package during our working lives. That is in fact why they are called entitlements. You paid into them so you are entitled to them. I have no problem at all with Mr. Gulbranson receiving his benefits. What is maddening is that he wants them for himself, but doesn’t think they’re there for everyone. With every vote he and my relative weaken those programs.
One thing the article get terribly wrong is that they ascribe our current fiscal deficit to rising befits, but not revenue. It is a little more complex than that. Raising revenue is a problem – the intransigence of conservative against a lousy 4% tax increase on the wealthy. The other wrinkle in why revenue is down is the economy lost trillions in the financial collapse. Wall Street is back to making historic profits regardless of whether they actually earn that or as one conservative put it – “each is equally free to realize his own potential”. I guess guys in four thousand dollar suits work real hard, while brick layers, janitors, teachers and nurses are not realizing their potential.
So we’ll all just try to rise awareness that we need a safety net because markets like people are not perfect. You can work and save in America for fifty years and have it all wiped out overnight. Conservatives say that in all and every circumstance that is your fault and your problem. John Donne once wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main..” Despite the obvious reality of that, conservatives believe otherwise and want a public policy based on a dystopian vision of what the United States of America should be.
John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address
On the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, the JFK Presidential Library and Museum, a unit of the National Archives, displays the original documents related to one of the most famous speeches in American history. Handwritten notes, drafts and JFK’s reading copy of the speech illustrate its evolution. Museum Curator Stacey Bredhoff walks us through the documents along with excerpts of JFK himself delivering remarks