Retreat! After weeks of criticism, the Obama administration is offering an "accommodation" to U.S. Catholic bishops and other critics of a new federal rule that requires religiously affiliated hospitals, charities, and universities to provide their employees insurance with copay-free contraception. Obama's compromise, which he announced Friday, would essentially allow employers who object to contraception on religious grounds to usher employees into side deals with insurance companies, freeing religiously affiliated organizations from having to directly provide birth control coverage themselves. Will this satisfy the president's critics?
This supposed accomodation is "unacceptable": "There's a simple principle in Catholic moral theology," says Tom Crowe at Catholic Vote: "If you materially support another's grave sin and facilitate it knowingly, you are also guilty of the grave sin." What's the difference between requiring religious institutions to tell employees where to find contraception and having employers dish out the contraceptives themselves? Either way, the government is forcing Catholics to "support gravely immoral activity." This remains "a violation of the freedom of religion."
"Compromise or accomodation, it's still unacceptable"
C'mon. This is a legitimate compromise: Look, says Scott Lemieux at The American Prospect. Obama's supporters should be happy: "Employees will still be able to receive contraceptive coverage at no extra cost." And the Catholic Hospital Association, for one, is "very pleased" with the religious exemption, saying that it "protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions." It's only the "intransigent bishops" who aren't on board. The rest of us can see that this is a fair deal.
"Birth control chess"
But who's going to pay for this? There's a big catch here, says Sarah Kliff at The Washington Post. The White House claims this is "a good deal for insurance companies," since over the long haul, covering contraceptives lowers the rate of expensive pregnancies, and thus becomes revenue neutral for insurers. But "there's a difference between 'revenue neutral' and 'free.'" It costs about $20 per person per year to cover contraceptives. "Unless drug manufacturers decide to start handing out free contraceptives, the money to buy them will have to come from somewhere." Obama's new rule puts the cost on insurers — who make their money from subscribers' premiums. It's hard to see how insurers won't pass on this new cost to the rest of us.
"The catch in Obama's contraceptives compromise"