Parsing the contraception controversy
Tell me if you can discern any moral difference between the following insurance policies:
- Every employer which provides/contributes to employees' health insurance must provide a policy which covers contraception.
- Employers can choose to provide coverage which either does or does not cover contraception; health insurance companies must provide contraception coverage (for free) to individuals whose employers choose not to offer it.
- Every health insurance product offered for sale in the U.S. must cover contraception.
I'm pondering this because of the recent controversy surrounding the Obama administration's decision to enforce rule #1, which was met with great anger by (some) religious groups, especially the Conference of Catholic Bishops; the administration then tried to appease these critics by changing the rule to something like #2. This satisfied some, but not others (including the Bishops).
Although I disagree with the Bishops on the cenral question, I see their point here, since I (mostly) can't tell the difference between #1 and #2 (or #3 for that matter) [of course, they certainly have political differences, but I'm not concerned with those here]. I don't think it can be about money, since as far I understand it, the insurance companies actually save money by offering this coverage to women for free, since it prevents other health costs; Even if it did cost the insurance company, it is likely that they would pass this cost on to their other policies, including those offered to Catholic hospitals and others opting out of contraception coverage. So, it cannot be that the Church's objection is to some of their money going to something to which they object.
It seems that their objection is related to facilitating access to contraception by their employees in any way. I could accept this if any person could get free contraception from any insurance company, whether or not they have a comprehensive policy with that company. I don't think this is the case - only those whose employer opts out of providing contraception coverage get this benefit from the insurance company.
So, it seems the reasoning of those who like this compromise is something like the following:
- Being required to contribute $0 (or -$5) for insurance which includes contraception coverage = religious oppression.
- Paying an additional $0 (or $5) to offer coverage which does not cover contraception, which policy entitles the policyholder to free contraception coverage from the same insurer = OK.
Perhaps I'm being too harsh. The only sliver of difference I can discern is that option #2 might require some kind of affirmative action on the part of the employee to select such coverage, which absolves the employer (in their own eyes) from the responsibility of being the one who facilitated the employees use of contraception. Since the rule isn't in effect yet, I don't know whether this affirmative action exists or what it would be (such as filling out an additional form). I still find it to be a pretty weak argument. If anyone can explain it to me, I would appreciate it.