Saturday, February 11, 2012

Employer birth-control 'exemptions' are a phony issue

 by Hunter for Daily Kos    Thu Feb 09, 2012

Fake. Controversy.

Twenty-eight states already require organizations that offer prescription insurance to cover contraception and since 98 percent of Catholic women use birth control, many Catholic institutions offer the benefit to their employees. For instance, a Georgetown University spokesperson told ThinkProgress yesterday that employees “have access to health insurance plans offered and designed by national providers to a national pool. These plans include coverage for birth control.”

Similarly, an informal survey conducted by Our Sunday Visitor found that many Catholic colleges have purchased insurance plans that provide contraception benefits [...]

How fake? Pretty darn fake:
“The employee health insurance plans include a prescription contraceptive benefit, in compliance with state and federal law,” DePaul University spokesperson Robin Florzak confirmed to ThinkProgress.
No, really. Really, really damn fake:
Yes, the [Georgia] law was originally passed back in 1999, four years before Republicans gained control of Georgia’s government. But Republicans have had ten years in which to change the law if they thought there was a problem with it; yet, it has remained intact through ten Republican-controlled legislative sessions.

And with no stated exceptions, this law applies to mega-employer Saint Joseph’s Hospital, a 410-bed acute care facility in Atlanta with several subsidiaries including an employed physician’s group and research facilities, with a total of 3,000 employees. And the law also applies to Saint Mary’s Hospital, a 196-bed acute care hospital in Athens, GA.

Both hospitals are members of the Catholic Health East system.

But you see, everyone just noticed that right now. Or rather, it suddenly became untenable just now.

So some Catholic bishops and assorted other anti-healthcare and anti-letting-women-have-birth-control hangers-on have got their knickers in a double bowline over something that has already been the law for many years, that Catholic institutions have been complying with without difficulty for years, and which only just now, for some inexplicable reason that nobody can quite explain, is suddenly an epic threat to Whatever. Because if we don't allow large American employers "exemptions" from national laws in accordance with their every possible religious prejudice, no matter how fringe, then the government is oppressing people.

This can only mean that once again, we have solved all of America's other problems and are at a loss for other things to complain about.

Again, since it is apparently difficult for some people to understand: We are not talking about going into churches and demanding people take birth control when they don't want to. We're not talking about going into churches at all, for that matter. We're talking about large employers, colleges and hospitals, and stating that their religious beliefs do not trump employment laws or the rights of their employees, many of whom are not even of the religion in question. Want to form a church? You can believe whatever you want, and act however you want. Oppress women, be bigoted against brown people, whatever floats your ark. Want to be an employer? Then certain rules apply. You have to provide a minimum wage, you can't chain people to their workstations, you have to have sufficient bathrooms, and if you provide them healthcare you have to provide it in a non-discriminatory fashion to both men and women, and without religious dogma attached. It's a simple concept. A college is not a church. A hospital is not a church. Putting a big cross outside doesn't allow you to treat your employees however you want regardless of the law, and America is very roundly screwed if that ever becomes the case.

This is a non-issue being pushed into the spotlight because one side desperately needs to convince people they're being oppressed and needs preferential treatment. In this particular case, the bishops don't even have the respect of their own flock, and the conservatives using it as yet another bludgeon against healthcare reform doesn't have the public on their side. Yes, yes, it's a "wedge issue." But it's an embarrassingly phony one. The White House has done themselves no favors by continually "negotiating" the non-issue, either. Show some spine, and stick up for employees. It shouldn't be up to your damn employer whether you're "allowed" to use birth control or not.

Send an email to the White House and tell President Obama to stand firm on requiring all health insurers to cover contraception without co-pays.