Feb 16 2012
Yesterday I wrote:Don't kid yourself, this is just the opening act in a war that is designed to, at one and the same time, pervert the meaning of the First Amendment-and at the same time empower insurance companies to go right back to fucking people over.
And leave it to Darrell Issa to prove me right:
The Republican pols who so gleefully pounced on the contraception mandate issue, thinking it would simultaneously titillate their conservative evangelical voter base and ObamaCare haters everywhere, while serving as a “wedge” with Catholic voters, have been frantic to frame the issue as one of “religious liberty,” not of access to contraceptives or of women’s health care. As you may have heard, this “framing” effort went horribly wrong this morning for House Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) at a hearing on the mandate.
Here’s the background from Igor Volsky:
Ranking committee member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) had asked Issa to include a female witness at the hearing, but the Chairman refused, arguing that “As the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the Administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, he believes that Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness.”
The proposed witness in question, Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, is a friend of a fellow-student who lost an ovary after being denied contraceptives prescribed as a medical treatment. She is also obviously connected to one of the “religiously-affiliated institutions” that are at the center of the controversy, even according to the opponents of the mandate.
Issa’s imperious exclusion of Fluke, accompanied by comments that she was not “qualified” to testify, helped dramatize the fact that every single witness he called for the hearing’s first panel was a male religious authority opposing the mandate. The two female Democratic Members of the committee subsequently walked out of the hearing in protest.
Because while the deranged wing of the GOP is continuing its freak out about a standardized practice-their evil apprentices are on still on the job:
In their latest move in the battle over contraception coverage, top Republicans in Congress are going for broke: They’re now pushing a bill that would allow employers and insurance companies to pick and choose which health benefits to provide based simply on executives’ personal moral beliefs. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the top GOPer in the Senate, has already endorsed the proposal, and it could come to a vote this week. The measure would make the religious exemptions to President Barack Obama’s health care bill so large they’d swallow it whole.
“This is about gutting the Affordable Care Act and the protections it was meant to establish,” says Leila Abolfazli, a lawyer focusing at the National Women’s Law Center who focuses on health and reproductive rights.
Obama’s Affordable Care Act requires all health care plans to offer certain services and benefits, including birth control. Last week, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) offered a “conscience amendment,” to the law, pitching it as a way to allay religious employers’ qualms about providing birth control to their employees.
But Blunt’s proposal doesn’t just apply to religious employers and birth control. Instead, it would allow any insurer or employer, religiously affiliated or otherwise, to opt out of providing any health care services required by federal law—everything from maternity care to screening for diabetes. Employers wouldn’t have to cite religious reasons for their decision; they could just say the treatment goes against their moral convictions. That exception could include almost anything—an employer could theoretically claim a “moral objection” to the cost of providing a given benefit. The bill would also allow employers to sue if state or federal regulators try to make them comply with the law.
Don't think insurance companies won't drive a truck through that loophole. As a commenter noted at John Cole's place: "This is an AMAZINGLY bad idea. It rewards those employers who deny coverage, and sanctions those who don’t.. This is one for the history books in bad ideas, it really is. I think we should all remember that this idea came about because of churches + Republicans, setting public policy."
Not a good mix, apparently.